Rainbow Lorikeets: Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

Rainbow lorikeets on a platform

 John Jones/Flickr/CC By 2.0

Sweet-natured, vibrantly brilliant rainbow lorikeets are long-lived, medium-sized parrots that get just over a foot long from beak to the tail feathers. They are busybodies that like to be in the midst of the action. And, like a young puppy, this bird encourages play whenever its favorite person is around. This bird is not shy and will let you know when it needs attention. If you're looking for a laid-back bird, this may not be the right bird for you.

Species Overview

Common Names: Rainbow lorikeet, lory, rainbow bird

Scientific Name: Trichoglossus moluccanus (Subspecies: Swainson's Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus moluccanus), the Lake Eyre Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus eyrei), and the Northern Moluccan Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus septentrionalis)

Adult Size: Up to 15 inches in length and 2.5 to 5.5 ounces in weight

Life Expectancy: Up to 30 years

Origin and History

The rainbow lorikeet is native to coastal regions from northern Queensland to Southern Australian along the eastern coastline. Colonies of rainbow lorikeets have since established in Perth in western Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. The rainbow lorikeet lives in the trees of the rainforest, the bush, and the woodlands. Rainbow lorikeets can fly up to 40 miles in a day to find food. They often fly in noisy flocks of one or two dozen birds.

Temperament

Rainbow lorikeets are sweet, affectionate birds that are known for their comical antics and friendly personalities. In general, these birds are friendly, easy to socialize, and value interaction with their human keepers.

Hand-feed these young birds during their training. They will become acclimated to human touch and may be less nippy.

This bird is a highly intelligent bird that can learn tricks and other behaviors. Because it’s so smart, it is also a capable escape artist. Cage door locks are a must.

Most lories do not get along with other bird species; they are incredibly territorial. They can become vicious with birds of their species and should never be left unsupervised with other birds.

Speech and Vocalizations

Rainbow lorikeets are excellent talkers, and they can learn to say many words and phrases. They are noisy birds and have a high-pitched tone with frequent squawks. Their sometimes shrill vocalizations can be abrasive and unpleasant to some people. This bird is not the ideal pet for people who have close neighbors who are sensitive to loud sounds.

Rainbow Lorikeet Colors and Markings

They are one of the most colorful species kept as companion birds. They have a slender build similar to Asiatic parakeets, such as the Indian ringneck parakeet or Alexandrine parakeet.

Rainbow lorikeets certainly live up to their name—their faces and bellies sport a deep blue plumage with green feathers on their wings, backs, and heads. They have bright red breasts with highlights of yellow and orange on the sides. Their bright red beaks offset against the blue of their facial feathers, and they have dark, grayish-black skin on their feet.

You cannot tell males and females apart by appearance. To determine sex, the bird needs genetic testing or a surgical sexing procedure.

Caring for a Rainbow Lorikeet

Overall, rainbow lorikeets are excellent pets for those who have plenty of free time to spend with them. Rainbow lorikeets love to play and need to be provided with plenty of toys to keep their minds and beaks busy.

These birds need a large flight cage or aviary. The minimum size for a cage should 4 feet long by 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall. The cage should be sturdy, metal construction—steer clear of wooden cages, which can be torn apart by their beaks.

While cleaning up after any pet bird can be quite a mess, lorikeets can get messy due to their liquid-based diets. When choosing a location for a lorikeet's cage, it's essential to place the cage in an area where there is no carpet and where the floors and walls can be easily wiped clean. Many people line their walls with plastic sheeting to protect their walls due to the bird droppings. This smart species can be potty trained to control where the bird does its toileting.

Since a lorikeet's diet consists mainly of sugary nectars that are prone to bacterial growth, clean their food cups within two hours of feeding to prevent bacterial infections.

Common Health Problems

Rainbow lorikeets are susceptible to lorikeet paralysis syndrome is a condition that causes paralysis or clenched feet, which does not allow a bird to perch. The exact cause is unknown, but a viral infection or vitamin deficiency may be the culprit.

Most intelligent bird species are prone to feather plucking when a bird becomes bored, feels neglected, or gets anxious. Although lorikeets are not primarily known for feather plucking, rainbow lorikeets can get depressed if they do not get sufficient mental and physical exercise.

Another condition, sour crop, is a bacterial infection that affects the bird's crop or food storage pouch in the throat area of the bird's digestive tract. You can avoid this problem with meticulous cleaning of the bird's cage, food cups, and water cups between feedings.

Diet and Nutrition

Unlike other parrots, lories survive in the wild mainly on nectar and flower pollen. If you look inside of a lorikeet's mouth, you'll notice that their tongues have uniquely adapted "brushes" on the tips to help them harvest these foods from the plants in their environment.

In captivity, lorikeet owners feed their pets either commercially available or homemade nectar mixes, which must be prepared fresh two to three times daily. Start by offering 1/4 cup per feeding—give more if they finish quickly and are looking for more. These birds are usually eating for at least three hours throughout the day.

Supplement a pet lorikeet's diet with treats like oats, fresh fruit, edible organic flowers, and green vegetables twice daily. Avoid citrus fruits; they may upset the bird's digestion. Discard any uneaten food after three to four hours. Provide fresh water every day.

Do not feed this bird a seed or pellet mix. These hard foods can damage this bird's delicate brush-like tongue. Also, avoid foods like avocado, chocolate, coffee, rhubarb, and alcohol; they are toxic to all birds.

Exercise

Rainbow lorikeets are very active birds, so they require plenty of exercise to maintain optimal health. A lorikeet needs a large cage so that they have room to climb and fly. This bird needs a minimum of 3 to 4 daily hours of supervised, out-of-cage playtime for good physical and emotional health.

Rainbow lorikeets love to play and need to be provided with plenty of toys to keep their minds and beaks busy. They are avid chewers, stock up on destructible toys made of safe woods so that they can exercise their beaks.

rainbow lorikeets as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Kaley McKean
Pros
  • Friendly and affectionate

  • Intelligent, can learn to speak

  • Can teach tricks, including potty training

Cons
  • Can be loud, not well-suited for apartments

  • Requires specialized nectar diet

  • Territorial, might not get along with other birds

Where to Adopt or Buy a Rainbow Lorikeet

Look into local lorikeet breeders and make an appointment to meet with them and their birds to see if you think you could handle day-to-day living with a lorikeet in your household. They can cost from $500 to $1,500. Rescues, adoption organizations, and breeders where you can find rainbow lorikeets include:

A healthy lorikeet will be bright and active with smooth feathers. Make sure that the beak is clean, the eyes clear and bright, and that there are no broken feathers. Feet should be clean, and nails should not be too long.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

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Otherwise, check out all of our other medium bird species.