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The Ornate Lorikeet – the World’s Most Colorful Parrot? – Part 1

Heat lamp“Most colorful” is a tough title to clench in the parrot world.  The Ornate Lorikeet, Trichoglossus ornatus, however, must surely be a top contender.  In fact, the name “ornate” does it little justice, as would any description of its plumage.  No longer commonly kept in the USA, this is a bird worth searching for in zoos or among large private collections.


The Ornate Lorikeet’s feathers span the rainbow – most are bright green edged in yellow, deep blue or brilliant red edged in dark blue, but there are other colors as well.  The eyes are orange and the beak is a “screaming” orange-red.  It’s hard to imagine all the color that is packed into its 10-inch-long body (please see photo)!

Range and Habitat

Indonesian island of Sulawesi, just east of Borneo, is home to an incredible array of animal “standouts” – black, ape-like monkeys, giant gliding possums and babirusas (odd pigs sporting tusks that grow right their skin, please see photo), to name just a few.  So it seems fitting that a bird so uniquely-colored as the Ornate Lorikeet is found here, and on a few offshore islands, and nowhere else on earth.

Ornate Lorikeets favor mountain forest edges and overgrown scrub, and also frequent villages bordered by dense cover (imagine having these fellows as feeder visitors!).  They are most commonly seen in pairs or small flocks and feed upon flower blossoms, nectar, pollen, fruit and some greens; insects may be taken as well, but field studies are lacking.

Captive History

babirusaI recall caring for Ornate Lorikeets when working for a bird importer as a teenager, but they are not at all common in the USA today.  They have a reputation for being quite delicate as regards temperature, and even long term captive seem prone to respiratory and digestive system distress.  When in the peak of good health, their voices are as loud, and far harsher, than are their colors!

On to diet and general care in Part 2. 

Further Reading

Rare and Popular Lorikeets as Pets

Sulawesi Natural History  

Introducing a Lorikeet Rule-Breaker – the Black Lory

black lorikeetsLories are among the most spectacularly-colored of all Psittacines, with the popular pet-trade species exhibiting an array of “screaming” red, blue, green and violet feathers (please see photo of the aptly-named Rainbow Lorikeet).  But there are somberly-colored members as well, typified by the Black Lory, Chalcopsitta atra (sometimes also known as the Rajah or Red-Quilled Lory).  But when it comes to lories, “somber” does not in any way equate with “dull”.  The jet-black plumage of this beauty is highlighted by a purple sheen and dark orange-red eyes, leaving one with an impression that is not soon forgotten.

Range and Habitat

The Black Lory ranges over Western New Guinea (the Western portion of Papua New Guinea’s Vogelkop Peninsula and Western Irian Jaya) and the nearby islands of Batanta and Salawati.  Four subspecies have been described.

The little field research that has been carried out indicates that Black Lories favor forest edges and sparsely-wooded grasslands.  Isolated tree stands in largely cleared areas are frequented, but they seem rarely if ever to penetrate very far into thickly-wooded habitats.  Large flocks, sometimes comprised of several species of lories and other birds, have been recorded.

Considerations for Prospective Owners

Black Lories exhibit many of their tribe’s desirable traits – constant activity, a curious demeanor and a willingness to bond with people if treated kindly – as well as those considered “not-so-desirable” – a loud, high pitched call that they employ most enthusiastically and an often aggressive attitude towards other birds.

In common with related species, Black Lories are quite sensitive to cold, damp conditions.  Their size (to 12.5 inches) and high energy levels suit them well for outdoor aviary maintenance, but in temperate regions they must be brought inside during the cooler months.  Indoor winter temperatures of 72-75 F are sufficient.


While Black Lories have been kept on a diet comprised largely of high quality commercial lory food, when caring for these birds at an importing facility years ago I favored a more complex diet.

Following the advice of several older bird-keepers of my acquaintance, I used commercial lory nectar but also provided twice-daily feedings of a fruit/vegetable pulp (pears, various berries, apples, pineapple, carrots, cucumber, honey).  To this was added egg food, rice flour and high-protein baby cereal, along with a variety of seeds, kale, sprouts and other greens, and fruit tree branches (with blossoms in season).


Although some breeding success has been had in large indoor cages, it is preferable to establish a mated pair outdoors in a quiet location.

Black Lories favor large nest boxes – one measuring approximately 16” x 16” x 22” will do nicely.  A typical clutch consists of 2 eggs, which are incubated for 22-24 days.  The young fledge in approximately 2 months.  Perhaps due to their high metabolisms, Black Lory parents require extra-large quantities of high quality foods.

Further Reading

You can read about the conservation status and IUCN evaluation of the Black Lory here.

Amusing video of a Black Lory bathing. 




Black Lorikeets image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by elvranharris and snowmanradio

Popular and Rare Lories and Lorikeets as Pets

Lories (parrot subfamily Lorinae) have long attracted aviculturists, yet there are many factors that weigh against their choice as pets. Noisy and aggressive towards other birds, all species feed on nectar and fruit, which, along with watery feces, they fling about their cages…keeping their living quarters clean is quite a chore.

Why then do so many people continue to put great efforts into their care? Simply put, they are the most gorgeously colored and acrobatic of all birds, and quickly become affectionate, playful companions. Fortunately, the availability of specially formulated lory food has greatly simplified their care.

Red or Moluccan Lory, Eos bornea bornea

This was the first lory I worked with, back as a boy helping out in a pet store (I say “helping out” because I was not paid, other than by being allowed to take sick animals home!). Without any real training, our red lory climbed down from his store-front perch each evening and walked to the back of the shop and into his cage. As soon as we began to close up for the night, off he went!

This responsiveness, along with “screaming” scarlet plumage, has rendered the red lory quite popular with parrot enthusiasts. It reaches 12 inches in length, and breeds fairly well, especially if exposed to temperatures of 90-93 F for a time. Like all their relatives, red lories do best in outdoor aviaries or large cages.

Red lories are limited in distribution to Saparura and Amboina Islands, west of New Guinea. They favor mangrove forests, but will feed in parks and farms if dense tree cover is available nearby. Relatives that also appear in the pet trade include the blue-streaked and black-winged lories.

Black-Capped Lory, Lorius lory lory

A quiet (for a parrot!) voice, hardy constitution and friendly nature suit this 12 inch lory well to captivity. Its plumage is better seen than described – the black crown contrasting spectacularly with the blue body and green wings.

Black-capped lories do best in an outdoor aviary at temperatures above 50 F. They tame readily, but will attack and kill other birds, including parrots much larger than themselves. Pairs sleep in a nesting box even when not breeding.

Black-capped lories inhabit Vogelkop, Batanta and nearby Papuan islands that lie northwest of New Guinea. The closely related chattering and purple-napped lories are also bred in captivity.

Tahitian Blue Lory, Vini peruviana

Despite having been bred in captivity since 1936, this tiny (6-7 inch) indigo and white lory is still found only in a few private collections and zoos. It is likely gone from its native Tahiti, courtesy of introduced rats, and now dwells only on the neighboring Cook and Society Islands.

In the mid 1970’s, a small group of confiscated Tahitian lories found their way into the Bronx Zoo and came under my care. Despite being well-bonded, the pair I kept quarreled frequently, but teamed up to harass the much larger Palawan peacock pheasants that shared their exhibit whenever the mood struck them.

Tahitians have smaller bills than most lories, and specialize on nectar and soft fruits. Mine did well on a “shake” of yogurt, honey, hummingbird nectar, papaya and blueberries, along with other fruits and insects. Like all lories, they squeeze insects to extract their softer parts, and discard the hard exoskeletons.

Further Reading

To read more about lory husbandry and natural history, please see my articles Aggression in Lories and Lorikeets and Lories and Lorikeets.


Red Lory image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Stephen.

Black Capped Lory image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Doug Janson.

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