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Aggression in Lories and Lorikeets (Psittacidae, Lorinae)


The 56 lory and lorikeet species are among the most gorgeous and active of all parrots, and are usually quite bold in character.  In both the wild (particularly Australia) and in zoos, lory feeding stations are a great hit with tourists, with hundreds of colorful birds flocking onto treat-bearing visitors.

The Effect of Feeding Ecology

Lory and lorikeets rely primarily upon a relatively scarce, widely-scattered food source – pollen and nectar, and herein lays the explanation for their aggressive feeding behavior.  Competition at feeding sites has fostered in these birds a repertoire of over 30 threat displays…a far greater number than is seen in other parrots.  Unfortunately, these tendencies often express themselves as aggressive behaviors in captivity, with even long-paired birds sometimes running into difficulties.

Space and Aggression

A change in the environment is frequently a pre-cursor to aggression.  Giving the birds more room – a great concept in principal – often leads to fighting.  This is true for many birds (and other animals)…I once lost 2 white-crested laughing jay thrushes to aggression after giving birds that had lived peaceably together for 18 month access to an adjoining cage.  Of course, crowding can also lead to fights, but the possibility of extending or establishing a territory seems an especially strong factor.  Lories seem particularly prone to this phenomenon.

Adding a Nest Box

The provision of a nest box may bring on breeding-related aggression in an otherwise peaceful male, and moving even a long-established pair to a new cage is always a cause for concern.  Be sure to observe your birds carefully at such times, and separate them if you will be away for long periods when the change is first instituted.

Introducing Birds

Introduce new birds by caging them side-by-side, and confine a possibly troublesome individual to a small cage or carrier within the larger cage, if space permits, to allow the birds to get used to each other.  I relied upon this method with a wide variety of birds in zoo situations, and found it most useful.  If using a carrier for the introduction, choose one with barred as opposed to solid sides, so that the birds can interact.  Pets International Take Me Home Traveler is ideal.

Other Considerations

Limiting mobility by clipping the wings of aggressive birds is another tried and proven method of easing the introduction process.  The availability of a wide variety of bird toys and a complex, well-perched cage will go a long way in keeping your birds occupied with constructive (rather than destructive!) activities.  Of course, proper lory nutrition is essential in fostering normal behavior and good relations among your pets.



Please also see my article on lory and lorikeet feeding behavior and natural history:

Lories and Lorikeets – why do they differ so from other parrots?

Image referenced from Wikipedia.


  1. avatar

    Hey this is great stuff. But my lorikeet (shes a cross between a rainbow and a musk) is being aggressive towards our two Galahs. We haven’t had any changes at all to their Avery or cages inside, nothing at all has changed, yet our lorikeet has started attacking them, and moving to their area of the Avery where she never goes. It’s coming up to around summer, could this have anything to do with it?

  2. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog and for your kind comment.

    The onset of summer could very well be causing changes in the levels of various hormones, which might explain your bird’s behavior. This is more commonly seen in males, but is not limited to them. Even the largest of outdoor aviaries or zoo exhibits present an unnatural set of circumstances to birds (too close to other species, lack of mating opportunities etc.) and so it is difficult to predict or sometimes to explain their behavior…but problems most often occur as breeding season approaches. Changes in reactions to even long-favored people are also not uncommon.

    Unfortunately, you may need to separate the bird for a time, and try re-introductions in a few weeks.

    Good luck and best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar


    We have 2 hand reared red collared lorikeets, think both are female? They are approaching 3yrs and the first 18mths-2 years they lived peaceably in the same cage. We did move them into a much bigger almost avairy style/sized cage and they became incredibly aggressive (which your blog just explained – thanks). However they have both been moved back into their original cage. One of the birds has always been “quieter and reserved”, Dazzle, the other “engaging, outgoing etc”, Razzle. We have also acquired a Jack russell but prior to his arrival we’ve had cats and a big dog who was in the house PRIOR to the lori’s joining the family. For some time now there has been much “cornering” – usually of Dazzle – of one lori by the other and angry sqwaking/shouting matches … it has become worse and dazzle started “losing” (I dont’ witness her pulling them) feathers. We have separted them from each other so now living in different cages, but I noticed this morning that Dazzle has obviously “pulled” a feather and caused herself some bleeding. She is a nervous obviously stressed bird! Razzle is entirely fearless of ALL the other animals cats and dogs and approached them actively. Dazz just gets stressed and nervous our jack russel appears to stress her especially.

    Are you able to offer some advice on this matter?

    with sincere thanks

  4. avatar

    Hello Chanli, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog and for the feedback re the information that you found useful.

    Unfortunately, the scenario you describe is not uncommon, and is difficult to address. Changes in personality that might have been brought on by the move to the larger cage and/or by hormonal changes associated with aging are not often reversible. You did well in separating the birds – are they in the same room? This would likely be stressful to the subordinate bird. In fact, parrots are able to recognize individual voices, so sometimes being in a separate room but within hearing distance of the dominate animal can stress the other.

    A new dog can cause a different reaction in a bird that had adjusted to other dogs, especially if the bird is already stressed.

    Sometimes you can re-introduce birds successfully after the passage of some time. The best way to do this is to allow the subordinate individual to live in the cage until it is comfortable there and then to introduce the dominant bird to that cage.

    I’m sorry I couldn’t provide any better news – the most intelligent and interesting birds are usually the most complicated as well.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Hey frank thanks for giving another post. I would just like to say that i really do appreciate it. But as for our lori, shes stopped attacking our other birds and she has gone back to her own thing which is great!

  6. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for feedback…good to hear all is working out. I hope it continues to go well.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    Why does my lorikeet rub its upper and lower beek together and produce a clicking sound. Is that ok? what does it mean? Also is the poop bad or unhealthy when its dry and touched by kids. My lorikeet has been tested and has no sickness

  8. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Beak grinding is usually an aggressive sound, while a clicking noise, usually involving the tongue, is a sign of contentment…they are not easy to distinguish, so context – how your bird is behaving otherwise – is important. Please see my article on Parrot Vocalizations for additional information.

    The droppings should absolutely not be touched by your children, even if dry. Samonella and other micro-organisms do not always show up on fecal exams, or may establish themselves after the last exam was run, and most species can live on dry surfaces for a surprisingly long time. Your children should wash well after handling the bird or food dishes, etc. also, even if these appear clean to the eye. I always suggest that folks speak with their doctors regarding proper hygiene, especially where children are involved.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    i have just purchased two rainbow lorikeet and it has been 4 days since i got them. one of them keeps on bitting me when i place my hand close to it and the other one is scared of me. the bitting one’s feather are turning a bit grey and i don’t know why. i have been feeding them fruits until now

  10. avatar

    Hello Shivang, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Lorikeets are very individualistic in their personalities, perhaps more so that other parrot, so each must be approached differently. It is sometimes a bit harder to work with 2 birds, but in the long run it is better for the birds to have 2 rather than 1.

    As a general rule, they are very food oriented and this can be used to your advantage…determine their favorite and use that to lure them near. T is always better to have them approach you rather than to thrust your hand towards them. This takes a great deal of patience on your part, but scaring them by coming on too strong will set back the process.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  11. avatar

    Gday Frank,

    My wife and I have had a rainbow lorikeet for about 3 and bit years now, in this time we have moved him up to a larger cage and he responded well to this.

    It is just rescently he has become ver agressive towards me. at first he is my friend he will allow me to give him pats and rubs but with in about 10 seconds he will turn nast and start attacking. we do punish him as much as you can punish a bird by covering him up and not giving him any attention.

    Other day he is my best friend he will be let out of his cage and will spend hours with me on my shoulder flying around the house always coming back will sit there for minutes just to get pats and rubs and the very next day he wants to kill me.

    My wife on other hands is always in his good books i am comvinced that he is in love with her, never laid a scratch on her in the 3 years.

    I have got to the point now where i would never get rid of him as he is part of family but i just dont want to go near him anymore.

    I feel his attacks are unprovoked, and out of come out of no where, yes he has bitten at breakfast and dinner times but that has food involved. other times i think he feels it is a game for him.

  12. avatar

    Hello David, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog and the post; you raise a very important and not uncommon point. Parrots of all types often change behavior over time…in many cases, it is a response to hormonal changes within the bird as it matures, or as the seasons change and breeding behavior sets in. Birds kept in pairs often ignore and attack owners at this time. Interesting that you mentioned “in love”..in a sense this is what happens; a bird may see one owner as a mate, and the owner’s partner as a rival. I had a hand raised Great Horned Owl that tried to feed me in spring, and would attack other owls…captivity changes everything, unfortunately. So while the behavior seems random, it really has a basis in the bird’s biology. Some parrots also seem to gravitate to one sex or 1 person over time, independently of season/age.

    The behavior may change in time. Unfortunately, despite what you may read on the some websites, parrots do not respond to punishment; they may quiet down if covered, but long-term lessons do not take hold and change their behavior; concepts useful with dogs and other mammals only make the situation worse for parrots. We have to keep in mind that they are not domesticated in the same way as a dog or cat, and, unfortunately, we must work around their physiology to a great degree. Treats etc offered by you may help, or time may change the bird, but you’ll likely have to accept being on the outs with the bird for now.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  13. avatar

    I have a yellow-streaked lory that is about to turn 5 in October. He has always been very sweet, but recently (in the last month or so) he has started attacking my feet. He did this once about a year ago when I was wearing flip-flops. I thought he liked the rubber and I stopped wearing them around him. Now he does this if I am barefoot, which I normally am and have not had a problem until now, He has actually chased me around the house and a few times I have been trapped in the bathroom. He has been in the same cage/environment since I’ve had him so I don’t think that is the problem. I’m wondering if the color of my toenail polish is affecting him, although it’s been pretty much the same color, orange or nothing, and the only other thing is that he is WAY over do for his wings to be clipped. Or, is this something to do with him coming into sexual maturity? Any info and/or tips will be greatly appreciated. I already have a few scars on my feet from this behavior (although it’s hard to be mad at him when after the attack he says “I love you”. 🙂 I find myself not letting him out of his cage as much and I miss the interaction and routine that we use to have.

  14. avatar

    Hello Cathy,

    Thanks for your interesting post. You may be onto something re the nail polish. At the Bronx Zoo, we used volunteer “crane walkers” to exercise hatchling White-Napped and other cranes that were being hand-reared (cranes suffer leg deformities and weakness if they do not move about a great deal). Walkers would paint their toenails in bright colors and the cranes would follow them everywhere; not sure if they ever tried unpainted nails.

    Sexual maturity may also be involved (with cranes, it was more food-oriented); he may chase small balls, toys and other objects moved about before him as well. You may find that the bird will change its behavior as hormone levels rise and fall; very difficult to predict; as you know, they are quite social and readily transfer sexual/social behaviors onto people.

    Yes…re “I love you”; toddlers are good at that as well, I’ve found!

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  15. avatar

    I have a blue fronted Lorikeet that I have had for about eight months and a Scaly breasted Lorikeet that I have had for 4 years,,, The Blue Fronted Lorikeet being the persistent fella that I believe him to be ( I have not had him DNA sexed) and the Scaly breasted Lorikeet I believe a female as the Blue fronted Lorikeet has tried mounting her have been getting along well.. It took about two months, but finally the Scaly breasted Lorikeet accepted that “he” was not going to leave her alone- both have separate cages… and GOT along well when supervised and let out of their cages… UNTIL I brought home an Olive Lorikeet… Now- the Blue fronted Lorikeet is infatuated with the new bird!!! he bites me, will not let me near the new bird… and follows the new bird where-ever it goes! And he is also attacking the Scaly breasted Lorikeet!! I have now separated the Olive and the Blue fronted Lorikeet- much to his dismay! Can you please advise me what I should do to try and curb his aggression? He was such a lovely bird!! And now is just biting and aggressive!! i do not know what to do when he behaves like this??? Should I cover him up?? Or what else?

    Thanks in advance! 🙂

  16. avatar

    Hello Michelle

    Thanks for your interest. What you describe is not uncommon. Lorikeets and other parrots are extremely social; in the wild, they are constantly in close contact with mates, and interacting with many flock members every day. Even in flight, in a flock, pairs can be distinguished by their proximity. This is why some bond so closely with people…we are a substitute (if a poor one!) for other parrots. But the time we can spare them is usually far less than what they need, in terms of interaction. Parrots kept alone very often form bonds with other related or even unrelated species (many lorikeets are able to interbreed, also). Becoming possessive is very common, as is aggression against owners (parrots kept alone may also defend favored people against other birds or people. We are useful when other parrots are not available, but even an unrelated species is “closer” to a natural situation for them. Aggression levels may change as hormones ebb and flow with the seasons, but unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to change the behavior as long as other birds are nearby…it’s largely an instinctual response, and won’t change much in response to training.

    Please let me know if you need any further information, and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  17. avatar

    I have a scaly breasted lorikeet who is six months old. He has always been very sweet but now over the last week or so he has started to bite me. He gets so excited to see me at times that after he jumps on me, he starts to attact me. He then clings on and it is very difficult to put him back in his cage. He doesn’t bite any other members of the family, yet he only wants to be with me. I cannot understand this love hate relationship the lorikeet has with me. Any suggestions on why he is doing this and how I can stop this behaviour.
    Many thanks nicole

  18. avatar

    Hello Nicole,

    Unfortunately hormonal changes often cause parrots to behave in ways that are difficult to predict or understand…they are highly social and complex..captivity changes their ability to behave normally (no mate or flock, different light/temperature cycles etc). Difficult to relate this to normal/natural behavior, but very common…let me look into that species a bit..best, Frank

  19. avatar

    Hi frank,

    I have two scaly breasted lorikeets and I’m unsure if they are related their showing signs of breeding if they do happen to breed should I be concerned about them being related or should I separate then due to this? Thanx for you time

  20. avatar

    Hello Mitch,

    Best to leave them be, as it’s hard to trace their ancestry unless you have received them from a careful private breeder. Inbreeding can cause problems, but many birds are fairly well inbred and do fine (depends upon species and other factors); in any event, 1st and 2nd crosses are rarely troublesome. Enjoy and pl keep me posted, Frank

  21. avatar

    Hello Frank
    We have a Rainbow Laurakeet that is over 15 years old and from the start of this year after laying a egg, now just sits in her hanging tent and continualy makes the noise as if she is laying a egg all day and most of the night
    If you could help with a suggestion it would be greatly appreciated
    thank you Samamtha

  22. avatar

    Hello Samantha,

    Unfortunately there’s no way to diagnose the problem by via those symptoms. A retained egg could be the cause, but there are many other possibilities. Please let me know if you need help in locating an avian veterinarian. I hope all goes well, Frank

  23. avatar

    Hi there 🙂 I hope you can help me!
    I have had my lorikeet since it was 6 weeks old and it has always been playful. She (I haven’t had her DNA tested but I call her ruby) is 1 and a half and she has recently started attacking anything and everything I touch…. Really aggressively she launches at it and most of the time it results in me getting bitten 🙁 she drew blood last time and now I’m am scared to get her out of the cage….
    I don’t understand why she is doing this..?
    Please help! 🙁
    I don’t want to neglect her but I just don’t know how to control this behavior…

  24. avatar

    Hello Rebecca,

    Unfortunately this is common as birds mature and hormones kick-in. parrots are highly social, with very complicated behaviors…captivity, especially when they are housed alone, often causes unpredictable behavior, changes in normal hormone levels, frustration due to inability to mate and so on; especially for species that are naturally aggressive, but seen in all. Not much can be done, although personalities vary…behavior can change with hormone levels, but until then it’s best to modfy your care etc in accordance with behavior. Sorry i could not provide a more promising answer, best, Frank

  25. avatar

    Hi Frank. I have two pairs of wild rainbow lorikeets that I feed on my balcony. There is one pair who are very aggressive and territorial towards the other pair. I would just like to be able to feed them both and would love them to get along as I love their company and they are beautiful birds. Do you have any advice on how to keep everyone happy?

  26. avatar

    Hello Glen,

    Nice to have too many wild rainbow lorikeets as a problem (I live in NY)! Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done…they are extremely aggressive regarding food sources due to the scarcity of such in the wild. They sometimes get along in groups in public exhibits where they are fed by visitors, as there is an over-abundance of food, but even there they are watched carefully by staff. outdoors it’s hard to predict what will happen, but there’s probably not much you can do to modify the behavior of free-living birds. Sometimes they work it out, or a different pair may arrive and change the dynamics. enjoy, best, Frank

  27. avatar


    We have had a olive lorikeet now for the past few months. He flew up to a relative of mine when she was sitting on her front porch. He was very tame and easy to handle. She kept him for a while and got his wings clipped. After that he became aggressive and she decided to give him to me. We let him out of his cage everyday and his has been building his confidence up. I don’t like him on me as I don’t trust him as he can be bitey. My husband lets him sit on his shoulder and both will be quite content. Now the problem is when we come into the room and start doing normal things the lori starts to get agressive towards my partner. He has bitten into his arm very hard twice and refuses to get off his shoulder onto his cage when asked. (he is usually pretty good doing that) He is a nice bird but the aggression can be a bit much to handle as that beak can be very intimidating. Any suggestions?

  28. avatar


    Unfortunately this is very common; they are highly social and when kept alone tend to develop odd reactions to people…aggression for now apparent reason, protectiveness, mating behaviors. Often influenced by hormonal changes, etc. behavior can change on it’s own, as hormonal output varies, but often it is difficult to control. No set way to change as far as I know..each bird very individual. Offering treats sometimes helps, but you may need to modify care, how and when it is let out of the cage, etc. Sorry I could not offer more definite answers, but single parrots are often very difficult to deal with, best, Frank

  29. avatar

    Dear frank my husband was given a lorikite for his birthday , we dont really know how old he is . The bird is very agressive and nasty when he bites he often draws blood. He attacks my husband when he feeds him and recently he was on my shoulder and bit my face and drew blood . We just dont know what to do we treat the bird very kindley , we have had him for a month and he is inside with us all the time thanks rosie

  30. avatar


    Unfortunately they can be difficult to work with, and behavior is largely affected by past experience, captive conditions, etc. You can try offering treats within cage if the bird does not react aggressively to this, but if it attacks as you describe it will be very hard to work with, even for an experienced keeper. Bites can cause infections, so I would not persist in trying to handle. You might wish to contact a local parrot interest group, members may have contacts with folks who may work with you, or help you to find a better situation for the bird. best regards, frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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