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Advice & welfare

Caring For Rainbow Lorikeets

Rainbow Lorikeets are very inquisitive and active birds. They are native to Australasia and have a lifespan of approximately 10 years.

Nutrition

Lorikeets also known as “Brush- tipped tongue parrots” have unique tongues adapted to their highly specialized dietary needs. Lorikeets feed on pollen, nectar and fruit. They are not seed-eaters.

Lorikeets diet should consist of a high quality commercial lorikeet mix (dry or wet), fruit and native vegetation, such as flower cuttings from bottlebrush, eucalyptus, grevillea and banksia plants. Fruits can include apple, pears, grapes and melon. It is best to avoid citrus fruits!

Note: Avocado, rhubarb, chocolate, onion, garlic and many household plants are toxic to lorikeets.

Food should be replaced daily (ideally twice a day) to prevent lorikeets from eating spoiled food and/or prevent harmful bacteria from growing.

Fresh clean water must be available always. Wash food and water dishes daily in hot, soapy water and rinsed thoroughly. Lorikeets love to bathe in water and therefore it is a good idea to provide a second bath container to reduce the likelihood of your lorikeet bathing in their water dishes.

Enrichment ideas: Foraging, e.g. methods of searching and acquiring food, is an important natural behaviour, which you can encourage by providing dietary enrichment. This can include hiding food inside foraging toys and treat boxes, fruit on skewers or other food items hanging from the side of the cage using bird-safe ties e.g. wood clips. You can make foraging toys from cardboard egg cartons, paper plates, popsicle sticks and cardboard boxes.

Environment

Lorikeets should be housed in aviaries, where there is enough room to fly. Aviaries should be at least 3m long x 2m wide, however the longer the better! Solid netting is required to prevent escapees as lorikeets can chew through soft netting. Place nesting boxes and potted trees inside aviaries to provide shade, shelter and resting places.

If you do not have space for an aviary, you can house lorikeets in large cages. You should use cages constructed from solid, sturdy material, such as metal, as lorikeets can chew through softer materials. It is therefore also important that any wood used in their cage, for perches, hides, etc., is untreated. Cages must be large enough that lorikeets have sufficient room to fly between perches (at least two wing beats) and fully extend their wings without coming into contact with the cage or any objects in the cage. The bigger the better!

You can partially cover the cage with shrubbery and provide nesting boxes so your lorikeets can have some privacy and a place to rest. Multiple perches, with space for all birds must be provided. You can provide perches made from natural branches and of differing diameters. Perches should be placed apart to encourage flying and never positioned above water or feed, to avoid contamination.

Lorikeets have liquid droppings and therefore, having solid flooring and lining the cage floor with shredded newspaper may assist with cleaning. Remove and replace the shredded newspaper daily.

Carefully consider the location of the cage in your home. Factors to consider include, protection from potential predators, e.g. your neighbours cat, shade and shelter from all weather conditions, room temperature/ventilation and soundproofing, for both the lorikeets and yourselves as lorikeets can be loud and unfamiliar sounds may frighten them.

Lorikeets are highly social and therefore should be housed in pairs to ensure their needs for social interaction are met. Lorikeets will also benefit from human interaction and will often consider their human family as part of their social “flock”.

Note: It is very important that your lorikeets are kept in secure aviaries and cages. The rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) is an introduced species to New Zealand and is classified as an Unwanted Organism under the Biosecurity Act 1993. Whilst it is legal to keep lorikeets as pets, it is illegal to release lorikeets into the wild (including if they escape), as they pose a threat to native bird species. If you are living in Auckland, DOC offers a service of getting your lorikeets banded for identification at no cost, which allows them to be returned to their owners if they escape.

Health

Just like other prey species, lorikeets are experts at hiding or ‘masking’ symptoms when unwell. It might not be until your lorikeet is very ill that you will see signs of sickness. Therefore, regular, preventative visits to your avian veterinarian is important. Your lorikeet should visit the vet at least once a year for a health check. Signs that something is not right could include:

  • Feather plucking
  • Lethargy
  • Reluctance to move
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Fluffed feathers (appears fatter)
  • Eyes closed, eye discharge or swelling
  • Reduced appetite or not eating
  • If you notice any of these signs, please consult your avian veterinarian immediately.

Lorikeets love to chew on almost anything, which can cause problems if they chew and ingest things they shouldn’t, such as metals. Lead and zinc are the two most common metals causing heavy metal positioning in birds. Signs associated with heavy metal toxicity include vomiting/regurgitation, wobbly balance, and weakness. Please consult your avian veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these signs.

Note: Make sure all toys given to birds are free of metals that can be toxic (i.e. lead and zinc).

Moulting, i.e. the shedding of old feathers, is a natural process that occurs once to twice a year in birds. Moulting is required to get rid of old/damaged feathers to keep a healthy plumage. Feathers play an important role in maintain body temperature and flight. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your birds moulting patterns please visit your avian veterinarian.

SPCA opposes the permanent deflighting (e.g. wing clipping and pinioning) of birds, except when it is required for therapeutic reasons. If required for therapeutic reasons, it should be carried out by a veterinarian with appropriate pre and post-operative pain relief.

Behaviour

Lorikeets are intelligent, social and active creatures. You will need to keep their minds and bodies active and stimulated using toys, games and plenty of exercise. They must have supervised out-of-cage time daily to fly, climb, explore in a safe space and get the exercise required to maintain physical and emotional health. Additionally, you can encourage exercise and exploration within their cages using wooden ladders, rope perches and tree stands. If you are letting your lorikeets fly free in your home, make sure you pick a safe and secure room, close all windows and doors, keep any other pets out of the room and remove all hazards e.g. turn off ceiling fans, hide electrical chords and household plants and cover any large mirrors and glass windows.

Lorikeets love to play so make sure to provide them with a variety of toys of different textures, materials, colours and shapes to keep them entertained.

Normal daily activities for lorikeets including foraging, bathing in water, preening i.e. tidying and cleaning feathers, and socializing. In nature, lorikeets live in flocks, which provides them with socialisation and a sense of security when preening and feeding. It is recommended to house lorikeets with a housemate of the same species and arrange their cage in way that provides security. Observe your Lorikeet and become familiar with their normal behaviour and routine, so then you can more easily recognize when your bird is stressed or shows a fearful reaction to an event.

It important to recognize that lorikeets are naturally quite loud and noisy, they may not be suited for all homes or locations. Lorikeets can bite, so be careful when introducing your lorikeet to children and other pets.

Enrichment ideas: Moveable perches, playing music to your birds, cardboard boxes with doorways cut out, cat balls with bells inside. For more information on behavioural training for birds, please see this resource developed by the Unusual Pet Vets.

Additional Information

Visit the SPCA Kids’ Education Portal (www.spca.nz/kids) for more information on caring for your companion birds, including enrichment and helpful videos!

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