Rainbow lorikeet ©Getty Images

Rainbow lorikeet ©Getty Images

Lorikeets are a special group of Australian parrots. There are seven species, or kinds, of lorikeet. The main difference between them and other parrots is that lorikeets feed on pollen, nectar and fruit.  In order to feed on these, this group of birds has developed a brushy tip to their tongues and a smaller beak than other parrots. They also have a slightly different digestive system so they can get the most nutrition from their special diet. 

Habitat and Distribution (where they are found)

Lorikeets are found in coastal areas around Australia,  in a wide range of treed habitats including rainforest and woodlands, as well as in well-treed city areas.  

Scaly-breasted lorikeets. ©Getty Images

Scaly-breasted lorikeets. ©Getty Images

Appearance and Behaviours

They are medium-sized parrots, and the colours and patterns vary between the different lorikeet species.  The  most commonly seen are the rainbow lorikeet and the scaly-breasted lorikeet.  They are often seen in loud and fast-moving flocks, sometimes both species in the same flock.  They cluster in groups and swoop from tree to tree calling out loudly.

One of the most colourful of Australia's parrots, the rainbow lorikeet has a dark blue head with a yellowy green collar.  It has a red beak. Its belly is violet and its chest orange. Its back and tail are green and when its wings are stretched, they are orange underneath. There are yellow patches on their thighs. They are about 32 cm long, including tail. Males and females look alike.  

The scaly-breasted lorikeet has red beak and eyes, and an all green head. Upper wings and body are green,  with a yellow pattern on the chest that looks like scales.

Rainbow lorikeet feeding on nectar in bottlebrush flowers. ©Getty Images

Rainbow lorikeet feeding on nectar in bottlebrush flowers. ©Getty Images

Diet and Feeding

The tip of a lorikeet's tongue is like a stiff brush. It uses this brush tip to get nectar and pollen from inside blossoms and other flowers. Lorikeets sometimes eat fruits, seeds and insects.

Life Cycle

Lorikeets lay their eggs in decayed wood, usually in a hollow limb of a eucalypt tree.  Both sexes prepare the nest cavity by chewing on the decaying wood to soften it and both feed the young, but only the female incubates the eggs.

Young rainbow lorikeet in its nest. ©Getty Images

Young rainbow lorikeet in its nest. ©Getty Images

The rainbow lorikeet breeds August to January, although it may breed almost year round in the tropical north. The female lays two, occasionally three, eggs which take 23 days to hatch.The male spends a great deal of time in the hollow, but does not appear to sit on the eggs.  Both parents feed the young, which leave the nest after 8 weeks.

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