Australian Lorikeets - Part 1
by Jude Vaughan
"Addictive" - that's what they are - as well as curious, cheeky, playful and absolute idiots with the antics they get up to. And once they've got under your skin you can guarantee that the number of aviaries and pairs you have just seem to grow like topsy.
On the other side of the coin, they do need a little extra care and attention, have very liquid droppings - ‘squirtings’ might be more descriptive - but on balance the sheer enjoyment of having them in your aviaries far outweighs these little inconveniencies.
They are not dry seed eaters, although in past years many would have been subjected to such an inadequate and unsuitable diet. Lorikeets aren't designed to grind seeds; they don't have the necessary equipment, such as a strong, muscle-lined gizzard. Rather, they are possessed of a very agile, brush-like tongue for collecting nectar, pollen etc -- and in the process would also naturally pick up a small proportion of insects, fruit and berries.
Luckily today, more knowledge on nutrition and the husbandry of Lorikeets has meant that aviculturists can provide their birds with better diets, more suitable housing, veterinary care and treatment, and in turn breeding results would appear to be much improved.
Quite a few years ago we inherited our first two Rainbow Lorikeets because we felt sorry for them -- the parents were in a mixed aviary in a neighbour's garden, fed on seed and a little fruit, and against all odds had intermittently bred. However the owner didn't even know these chicks existed until one day he put his hand in the nest box hanging on the wall, and was bitten by one of them. Needless to say they wormed their way into our hearts and aviaries.
Since that day, numbers and species have grown to include at various times, Red-collared, Purple Crowned, Little and Varieds.
Through the club we made contact with other members who were successfully breeding various species, and we experimented with recipes until we finally settled on using the following ones, which is not to say that if in the future sound reasoning or research shows that an alternative could be better, we wouldn't give it consideration.
A criteria for any diet would have to be that you have strong, healthy birds who breed well and produce good chicks. Whilst these mixes have certainly worked well for our birds, I'm not suggesting that you should change over just for the sake of it; if you are happy with the results from your present feeding program, then stay with it. However if you are not happy, you might want to consider the options.
One day some expert may have all the answers to our every question on Lorikeets. In the meantime the more that members discuss their successes and failures, differences and results, the better for everyone.
Now that I have hat off my chest, here's what we are presently using:
Mix all ingredients well and place in an airtight storage container. Each morning mix the required amount of powder with cold water.
As a guide, we mix at the rate of one level tablespoon of powder to 100 ml water, and would feed approximately 150 ml per pair per day when not breeding. When they have chicks we give them as much as they desire, fed twice daily. Don't think that "the smaller they are, the less they eat" - we have had pairs of Purple Crowneds who eat more nectar per day than a pair of Rainbows.
DON'T mix excess nectar and store in the refrigerator -- you will only be looking for problems with fungal infections. When feeding the fresh mix daily make sure it's in a clean bowl, not yesterday's topped up. Any sweet mix can be a breeding ground for ‘nasties’.
To make life even easier, consider buying a double quantity of the 300 ml stainless steel bowls available from the Sales Table - that way you have one set of unbreakable, easily cleaned, hygienic bowls in use, while you chuck the dirty set in the dishwasher ready to use the next day.
Available in the aviary at all times and based on Stan Sindel’s recipe, which is also used to produce Shep's Lori-Dry, but with our own breeding season ‘additions’:
Mix all ingredients well and store in an airtight container for future use.
During the breeding season we substitute Heinz Hi Protein Cereal for the Rice Cereal and Rice flour portion of the above mix to increase the protein level, and also add a level tablespoon of Calcium Carbonate powder.
You can and should also include fresh fruit and vegetables, such as apples, pears, nashi, sweet corn on the cob, silverbeet, celery, grapes -- for that matter, they seem to relish most things that you have in the refrigerator crisper. Stone fruit is a bit of a problem in our hot climate, so we feed these very sparingly, so that it's eaten quickly and doesn't spoil.
Flowers from Grevillea, Bottlebrush and Gum trees are devoured. Try sneaking a flower into one aviary, and you have every Lorikeet yelling its lungs out and demanding an equal share.
Common sense prevails regarding branches and flowers - do not pick them from near busy roads or where other contamination could occur, and be sure that no harmful sprays have been used.
Want more information on this subject?
See Australian Lorikeets, Part 2 by Jude Vaughan.
Or read more information about Rainbow and Red-collared Lorikeets, by John Robson.