My little mates

Alarm call!

Rainbow lorikeets are without a doubt colourful birds, all wearing the same uniform with gay abandon. But they’re not identical, even to our human eyes. Over time we’ve started to recognise individuals, but I confess only if the element that sets them apart is distinctive.

Spot the variations

The most obvious difference is the breast patch, which can be anywhere from almost entirely yellow to almost entirely red. The lower belly, which is predominantly purple, also varies according to how many red patches are in the mix.

Backs are mainly green

Then there’s the back plumage. It’s predominantly green in all birds, making them almost impossible to spot in their favourite trees. But even the back feathers have variations. There might be a sprinkle of orange dots across the shoulders, or a line of yellow at the base of a lower wing feather. One of our regulars we’ve called Nike, because he has a distinct ‘Nike’ shaped tick on his back. Another has a shallower scoop shape.

They’re not dumb birds – parrots never are. And although they don’t match the big parrots in longevity (they can reach their sixties and seventies) lorikeets can live into their twenties, although seven to nine years is quoted for wild birds. They come to our yard for food, obviously. But they also come because it’s safe. No kids, no pets. They’re not the only ones – we get injured birds coming here for that reason, like a magpie which had hurt its leg. (It recovered) The lorikeets are interested in us, too. When they get to know us, they’ll come and look in the French windows to see what’s going on. Often I suspect it’s just, “ahem, we’re here. Any spare food?” But on one occasion we left the glass door open because one individual so often came up to the glass, peering inside. He came in, flew around the room a bit, perched on a chair, then flew outside again, curiosity satisfied. I’m not sure I’d want them doing that as a habit, mind. They shit a lot.

Keeping dry

Another way in which the birds – not just the lorikeets – find our house useful is protection from the rain. They perch along the fence under the veranda, mostly in their usual pairs, preening each other.

The bird bath, of course, is very popular. Lorikeets tend to dunk a lot of themselves in the bath, splashing water everywhere. Unlike the miner birds, kookaburras and blue-faced honey eaters, they don’t bathe in the swimming pool. One did drown, but I think that was a young bird that happened in accidentally. Even so – curiosity can be dangerous. I noticed one bird showing a lot of interest in the pool, looking over the edge into the water. Not long after that I rescued a lorikeet who’d gone in and managed to struggle up onto one of the pool hoses. Unlike every other bird I’ve rescued from the Big Blue Monster, this little bugger wasn’t even grateful. He bit my hand before he waddled off into the hedge to dry off. (He never tried the pool again.)

So there you are – a bit more information about our little mates. They’re a lot like us – can’t tell them apart – until you REALLY look.

I’ve posted a bunch more photos to Dreamstime. And I’ve added some words to the developing new book. Read a little about that at Spacefreighters.

Keep well, folks. See you next week.