Lorikeets, or lories, are smaller parrots who often have more spectacular colors than their cousins, but do not have the large beaks often associated with the family. They can learn human language and are affectionate and long lived, making them sought after as pets. However, as with all higher functioning birds, they are high maintenance and the commitment to keep one is serious.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Aves
Order - Psittaciformes
Family - Psittaculidae (sometimes recognized as Loriidae)
Of the around sixty species of lorikeet, all are colorful, even the black lory (Chalcopsitta atra) has colorful plumage along the underside of its tail. While the plumage seems to make them stand out, it actually helps them to blend in with the flora of the tree tops where they spend their lives. They are small to medium in size and, like all parrots, are gregarious and intelligent. While lorikeets tend to be smaller than lories, the terms are almost interchangeable and the differences are not as noticeable as they are with parrots and parakeets. Lorikeets can live for three decades and they need to bond with something - either a mate or a human companion.
Lorikeets are mostly monogamous and, with a few exceptions, they will breed year round. The female tends to the eggs but both parents feed and protect the young. The young are born helpless, blind, and featherless. They grow and develop quickly and should be able to fly within two months.
Unlike other parrots, lorikeets eat primarily nectar and berries. They have tongues specially designed to feed on pollen and nectar and their beaks are not well suited to break the tough shells of nuts or seeds. Many species are nomadic and all are arboreal. They often live in very large flocks, sometimes numbering in the thousands.
The evolutionary history of parrots is difficult to determine before about 50 million years ago. While there are possible related fossils as far back as 70 million years ago, the later ones found in Europe are much more convincing. While lorikeets are distinct from other parrots, primarily due to the evolution of their unique tongue, there is no definitive fossil evidence as to when they split from other parrots.
The New Caledonian lorikeet may be extinct, but there is a possibility that it still exists in the more remote areas of its former range. The ultramarine lorikeet (Vini ultramarina) is listed as endangered and the blue lorikeet (Vini peruviana) as vulnerable. Both species are feeling pressure because of loss of habitat and the introduction of damaging species, especially rats and feral cats.
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
San Diego Zoo
Lories & Lorikeets: The Brush-Tongued Parrots and Their Care in Aviculture by Alison Ruggles
Bird Minds: Cognition and Behaviour of Australian Native Birds by Gisela Kaplan
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