Rainbows & Red-Collared Lorikeets

by John Robson ©

Taxonomically, the birds are very similar. Both are Trichoglossus haematodus, the Rainbow being sub-species moluccanus and the Red-collared, rubritorquis. To look at, they are nearly identical in size and shape, but very different in colouration. All the Red-collareds that I have seen are very similar in colouration, the only variation being in the intensity of the orange (red) of the collar and chest area, whereas Rainbows vary markedly in their colouration.

The chest colouration varies from a uniform lemon yellow to uniform brilliant red, with all combinations of these in between. The "blue" of the head also varies in intensity - this seems to be related to the chest colour.

The South Queensland Rainbows seem to be primarily red-chested with dark blue heads. The chest colour is variable in the extent of "flecking" on the basic red. This flecking is orange, yellow or a combination of both.

Rainbow Lorikeet & Blue-fronted Rainbow Lorikeet - Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus. Photo by & courtesy of Peter Odekerken, Buderim, Qld.

A pair I have that are of North Queensland origins have an orange chest with a small amount of yellow flecking. The blue of the head and abdomen is lighter than the local Rainbows. It is very similar to that of a Red-collared's head.

The lemon-chested variation has a head colour that is in between the dark blue of the local Rainbows and the lighter blue of the Red-collareds.

I have found that when paired with like-coloured birds, the young bred are true to the colour of the parents. This seems to apply to all the colour variations.

I have not as yet been able to determine whether or not the "lemon-chested" Rainbows are a distinct zonal colour variation, as the "orange" North Queensland ones seem to be. If any reader can shed some light on this, I would be interested to hear from them.

Both the Rainbows and Red-collareds seem to be similar in nesting requirements. I use 'A'- frame boxes. These are used both vertically and horizontally.


Both types of Lorikeets chew the inside of the box and line the nesting chamber with feathers. Looking at the number and variety of their feathers that they have in a nest, I am certain that they pluck themselves when in the nest.

I keep my birds in suspendeds (one pair per aviary), so it is impossible for them to "gather" feathers to place in the nest.

Their eating habits are similar. Mine are fed a basic diet of nectar and dry mix (as per Jude Vaughan's article on Lorikeets Part I), which is supplemented with fruit - apples, grapes, pears, oranges, mandarins, etc.

The most remarkable difference I have observed is in their personalities.

It is very easy to tell when Red-collareds have laid: you very rarely see the hen until the young are around 2 weeks of age. This behaviour is the same no matter what time of year they lay, and they lay all year round. I also find if I want to check the eggs or young, I have to lift the hen off the eggs or chicks. I use a large spoon, otherwise I lose chunks of skin. They are extremely protective mothers.

Red-Collared Lorikeets - Trichoglossus haematodus rubritorquis. Photo by & courtesy of Lyle Holmes, Brisbane, Qld

The Rainbows are totally opposite. You only know they have laid by close observation of the bird's behaviour and inspecting the nest. Whenever I inspect the birds, no matter what time of day, the Rainbows are invariably off the nest; yet the eggs are always warm. I have never had a problem checking Rainbow eggs or young.

I also find the Red-collareds to be much more inquisitive and demanding. When feeding they are invariably at the door chattering and eating from the bowl as you place it in the aviary. They also scream at you and carry on if you are late feeding them. The Red-collared young are also, on average, quieter, more easily handled birds than Rainbows.

All Lorikeets have a real zest for life and are engaging birds with tremendous personalities. They do take a bit more time to feed than seed eaters, but if you can spare this time, their personalities make keeping them worthwhile.

© Article under Copyright with the author, John Robson, and cannot be reprinted without written permission.


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