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Lories and Lorikeets

Lories in Brief

Scientific Name: Many different species available
Adult Size: 6 to 15 inches (15 to 38 cm)
Weight: 0.7 to 10 ounces (20 to 280 g)
Life Span: 15 years or more
Talking Ability: Varies by species

Lories and lorikeets are small to mid-sized parrots known for their playful energy and specialized diet. Their acrobatics and stunning colors have won them many fans among bird keepers. Let’s learn a little more about lories to help you decide if one is right for you. If you already live with one, I’m sure that you will learn something new.

Appearance

There are more than 50 species of lories and lorikeets, so there is no really “typical” appearance. In general, these are slender parrots with fairly long tails. Although there is no strict rule, the larger birds with square- or round-ended tails are called lories, and smaller birds with longer, tapering tails are called lorikeets. Most species of lories are brilliantly colored, sporting a plumage of crimson, purple, blue, and/or black, while most lorikeets are bright green with bright patches of other colors.

Family Tree

Like all parrots and parakeets, lories and lorikeets are part of the large group (technically known as an order) of birds called Psittaciformes, and parrots are sometimes called psittacines [pronounced SIT a seens]. Parrots are also called hookbills, for their strongly hooked bills that they use for climbing, digging, cracking open seeds, and preening their feathers.

Lories and lorikeets form their own subfamily within the parrots. They share an interesting anatomical feature: tongues with many small projections on them called “papillae.” These birds are often called the brush-tongued parrots because of their unique tongues. The papillae allow lories to harvest pollen and nectar from flowers; these two items make up most of their diets.

In the Wild

Lories and lorikeets are found in southeast Asia, Indonesia, Polynesia, New Guinea, and Australia. Most species are from tropical forests, including lowland rainforests and cloud forests. They generally live in flocks that can range from just a few to a few dozen individuals, depending on the species and habitat conditions. They travel great distances looking for flowers and fruits, their main foods.

Common Species

At least a dozen species of lories are available as pets. Here we’ll talk about a few of the most commonly kept.

Green-Naped Lorikeet
The green-naped lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus haematodus) is the most commonly kept subspecies of the rainbow lorikeet, as well as one of the most brilliantly colored parrots. His head is rich blue with a lemon-yellow patch at the back and an orangish red beak. His back and wings are bright green, and his breast is streaked with magenta and dark blue. He is about 10 inches (25.5 cm) long. The green-naped lorikeet can be a good talker and is often adept at mimicking household noises. Other subspecies of the rainbow lorikeet are also available in the hobby.

Chattering Lory
This species (Lorius garrulus) is predominantly bright red in color with green legs and wings. He is about 12 inches (30.5 cm) from beak to tail. He can be a good talker and mimic. Chattering lories are endangered in nature, but a good number are bred as pets.

Red Lory
The red lory (Eos bornea) is well suited to his name—his plumage is bright red with some electric blue markings on his wings. He is about 12 inches (30.5 cm) long. The red lory is one of the quieter parrots, but while not usually a good talker, can mimic noises well.

Lories as Pets

A lory can make a wonderful pet for the right household. Owners enjoy his clownish antics and vivacious personality. However, he is a highly energetic bird who needs a lot of attention, as well as a specialized diet. Properly preparing for your lory will help both of you live many happy years together.

Housing
Lories require large, sturdy cages, preferably made of wrought iron or powder-coated steel. Make sure that the bars of the cage are spaced so that your bird cannot stick his head out between them—about 1/2 inch (1 cm) is fine for most species. He also needs perches in a variety of sizes and materials to keep his feet healthy—natural branches are among the best choices. Provide numerous toys to keep him mentally stimulated when you aren’t around; rotate them regularly so that he doesn’t become bored. You will also need to spend more than an hour each day petting, grooming, training, and interacting with your lory.

Diet
Lories eat a different diet than other parrots, one that primarily comprises nectar and fruit. Nectar mixes, usually powders that you mix with water, are available at bird-oriented pet stores and through Internet retailers. Make a fresh nectar mix daily, and feed in a tube feeder or stainless steel cup.

Supplement your lory’s diet with fresh fruits (the more variety, the better, but feed citrus fruits sparingly), some vegetables (leafy greens of all types, squashes, sweet potatoes, corn, and peas are good choices), and a small amount of sprouted seeds. Lories love a treat of edible flowers, such as dandelions, nasturtiums, clovers, hibiscus, rose of Sharon, roses, pansies, and honeysuckles. However, do not buy these from a florist, as florists’ flowers are often treated with preservatives.

Fresh, clean water must be available at all times.

Because so much of a lory’s diet is soft and watery, his droppings are soft and watery as well. This will result in more time spent cleaning the cage and surrounding area than if you were keeping another type of parrot. Spot clean the cage daily and perform a thorough cleaning weekly.