Tag Archives: rainbow lorikeets

Who’s a bully, then?

Several years ago we used to put bird seed out for the parrots. While lorikeets mainly feed on nectar, a lot of the other breeds like cockatoos, corellas, and pink and greys, like seed. The trouble is, at first you get a trickle, then you get a flood and there’s this pushing, shoving, jostling bunch of birds all after getting a beak into a bowl. And that can lead to spreading diseases like the truly awful beak and feather disease.  Although its worst manifestation occurs in sulphur-crested cockatoos, the virus can be transmitted to other parrots. In fact, it can affect birds like wedge-tailed eagles when they eat an infected bird.

So I don’t put out seed anymore.

These photos date back to when I did. There’s bird seed in the bowls. One solitary sulphur crested came down to take a look and liked what it saw. But it didn’t want to share with any of the lorikeets.

The lorikeet isn’t impressed with the new arrival

The cockatoo pushes its weight around

The lorikeet tries to stand its ground

But in the end it’s just too small

Um… does any of this remind you of politics?

Humans are tribal. It’s hard-wired into our behaviour, one reason why we, as a species, have been so successful. It’s also why we fail on a global scale.

The UN was a good idea that is now well past its use-by date. It is ham-strung by the power of veto afforded to six countries, and it is riddled with corruption. Rich, powerful countries – I won’t name names but they remind me of sulphur crested cockatoos – buy votes from small, impoverished nations, like lorikeets. The ‘debate’ over whaling is a glaring example, as is the ineffectual posturing over Syria. Self-interest dominates the debate. That, and wealth. The same things happen in global sporting bodies such as FIFA the Olympic Games, cycling, cricket…

A similar pattern is emerging in Western politics. ‘Our’ politicians aren’t listening to the people anymore. In Australia, where voting is compulsory and where we have a strong, two-party system, votes for the two main parties is eroding fast. We’re turning to smaller groups who more effectively reflect our mindset, be that the Greens, One Nation, or the new Australian Conservatives. Judging by my Facebook feed, voters in the US and the UK are similarly disenchanted with their governments.

And what about ‘globalism’, that necessary precursor to a global parliament like the UN, where every country shares its resources and its wealth? Once again, it’s a nice idea.

I’m beginning to think that globalism is one of the main reasons why levels of pollution in our oceans and cities have soared. We catch fish in Australia and send them to China to be cleaned, scaled and wrapped in plastic to send back to us. OF COURSE they’ll send us back the same fish, how could you doubt it? We can get any vegetable, any time of the year – grown on the other side of the world, packed in plastic and sent to our supermarkets. When I was a kid my brother used to catch crayfish off the moles at Fremantle harbour, a yummy treat for all the family. Now, a little cray which he wouldn’t have bothered with costs so much at the supermarket I don’t even look. Meanwhile, crays from Western Australia are put on a plane still alive, and flown to the Japanese fish markets.

Seems to me we’d be better off living simpler lives, eating what’s in season, making do.

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.

Afternoon tea

Line-up on the pool fence

Strange fruit

They start to gather a couple of hours before sunset, when the shadows start to lengthen and the light takes on that late afternoon glow. Sometimes there’s a line-up on the pool fence, sometimes it’s a couple of stalwarts clicking their claws at the feeding table. When I appear the tension ratchets up. As I pour the juice into the two bowls a couple of the bolder ones will sidle up, one red eye fixed on me, to steal a sip before the crowd arrives. But they’re already gathering, landing just outside my field of vision in a flurry of sound. I step back and there’s a rush, everyone trying to get their beaks into the juice. They drop down from the fox tail palm above the table, or the trees on either side where they’ve been waiting patiently. Bossy boots and his missus try to claim both bowls as their own, but while it works for small groups, the pair is overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

Afternoon tea time

A flurry of golden wings

The din is incredible, a cacophony of screeching that reverberates in my head. There’s more than thirty birds trying to reach two bowls of juice. They argue, push, shove, take off for a break or try to fit in, a sea of heaving green backs and golden wings. The light from the lowering sun is at just the right angle to make their wings shine golden, like bad impressions of angels. Drops of apple juice sparkle in the air. I swear half of it isn’t drunk at all. There are too many birds, too close together, so we toss out other enticements – apples cut in half, or a slice of multi-grain bread. That gives them something else to fight over, and lessens the crush at the table.

Sometimes one smarty-pants sends up an alarm signal and they take off in force, only to return in minutes as they realise it’s a false alarm.

Alarm call!

It’s almost hovering, looking for a spot to land

We’re out of juice (This Winky s/he only has one eye)

It’s over in ten or fifteen minutes. The juice is gone. Some hopeful souls bend over to look under the table to see if more is forthcoming. Others repair to the bird bath for a drink of water or a splashing soaking. Yet others return to the trees for a preen, with each couple doing that hard part at the back of their partner’s neck.

As the warmth of the day fades they’ll leave in groups of six, or four, or two, heading North to the trees along the foreshore or the major road, where they’ll roost for the night. There are a few more raucous fly-bys with their mates, a bit more pushing and shoving for the best roosting spots. Then after the last light has drained from the sky, the noise ceases for another night.

 

It’s time for the bats to venture out.