Red-collared Lorikeets

By Mark Davies

We have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to care for these birds for the past 4 years, and every day they continue to enchant us. One moment they can be really friendly, quiet and affectionate, the next they are very excitable, boisterous, noisy, and have the appearance of being quite aggressive. I have found these birds to be all talk and no action - on the other hand they do have a painful bite!! Like most Lorikeets they are very playful with each other. Head banging whilst hissing with each other seems to be part of the course with them, yet looks quite severe to the observer. I have observed both the hen and cock instigate this behavior. These birds can be quite noisy when startled, alarmed or excited. I have also observed that they become quite vocal when young have come out of the nest box. Despite this, they can easily be kept in a built up area with neighbors. When they become excited both male and female 'flash’ and dilate their eyes, and carry out a rigid bob, and brief squawk. Sometimes when excited they will fluff up their feathers and shake their bodies erratically, again eyes blazing, and hissing.

Red Collards are very strong fliers, and continually move about their aviary. All areas of the aviary are usually investigated, and much time is spent playing or feeding on the floor. As with all lorikeets, these birds love to bathe, and fresh clean water should always be supplied in generous sized water bowls, as this retains their beautiful plumage. Our pairs remain in immaculate condition, and are seen to bathe daily even when the ice has been cracked in the morning during the winter months!! Branches are placed in the aviaries, and much enjoyment is noticeable with the birds foraging for insects, flowers, and sap. I have noticed that when willow branches are given the birds waste no time in stripping the supple bark off to reveal the sap underneath. I get much enjoyment watching these birds playing with bitten off pieces of stick, rolling on their backs, feet in the air, and juggling a stick.

Our pairs are kept in an outside aviary which measures 4 meters long, 1 meter wide, and 2 meters high. 1.2 meters is of plywood sectioned off from other pairs. This area is where the birds roost, and also where the nesting facilities are located. The rest of the aviary is covered with inch wire netting. At the front of the aviary is an area which is suspended, with access at the front to feed out in the mornings. This gives the birds a sense of security, as I do not have to invade their space to feed them. The beauty of the suspended area is that any waste food or water (from bathing) drops through to the pumice floor underneath (outside the aviary), so they have no access to fouled foods. The complete rood of the aviary is covered with U.V protected corrugated plastic sheeting. The reason for this initially was to protect our birds from wild bird droppings, as we do have a lot of them in our area. I was a little hesitant about this at the beginning as we like to see the birds bathing in the rain, yet remain happy with the decision we made regarding this. The floor of the aviary is covered with 2 inches of pumice, with inch wire mesh to prevent rodents entering. So far this has worked well. A rope is suspended from the roof to the floor, having old spoons and sticks placed through the rope for the birds to play with. I have noticed that they spend a lot of time mucking around on this.

In short Red Collared Lorikeets eat anything and everything. These birds, in our experience are pretty easy to look after, they don’t seem to be fussy eaters. A basic liquid mix will suffice, all fruits and veggies except avocado are fed. Bowls of food are replaced daily, and used bowls are cleaned ready for the next morning. Seeds dry or sprouted (preferably sprouted which are easier to digest) are relished. Sprouted seeds are fed daily to our pairs even when young are in the nest, this usually being the first thing to be eaten before anything else. A commercial Lory dry mix is eagerly eaten by all my Lorikeets. The dry mix is placed in the dry areas of the aviary, they have to fly to the water, which encourages extra exercise. ‘Bird Bread’ made in the bread maker is also provided daily. The diet provided seems to suit these birds as they are not fat or lethargic, they retain good plumage, their beak color is a rich orange red color, and fertility at this stage is faultless.

We find this sub species very prolific breeders. Our breeding pair were bought as youngsters and brought up together. 18 months later they had chicks. They have proved to be very fertile, as every egg so far has been fertile. The nest box is of a standard man made type, constructed of solid pine, measuring 300mm square, 400mm high, with a 50mm diameter entrance hole. The box has a side inspection door. Rotten wood pulp is mixed in with clean wood shavings to a depth of 100mm. This is cleaned out weekly when chicks are 3 weeks of age onwards, as chicks have been known to drown in the own faeces if ignored. Compatibility plays a large part in the reproduction of parrot like species, yet in our experience and observations of others breeder’s birds, this has not been a problem, however I’m sure there are instances of this.

Feather plucking can be a problem with this species, due to an eagerness to breed, or the result of boredom due to a lack of stimulation within the environment they are kept in. These conditions are usually irreversible. We have a problem at the moment with young chicks being plucked, this is quite a strange habit that this particular pair have. They themselves are in perfect feather, however pluck their chicks down and feathers off the backs and wings, yet not causing and other physical damage. Could this be a need for extra protein, or is it just a habit? I mentioned earlier that this was a strange trait of this particular pair, the reason it is strange is the fact that when the young leave the nest at 8 weeks the young are in immaculate condition without any feathers missing.

Two eggs are usually laid, sometimes, but rarely three. The female incubates solely for 23-25 days, the cock retires to the box at night, yet guards the box diligently throughout the day. The hen will alleviate herself of her duties briefly to feed and relieve herself, and then return to her parental instincts. Both parents indulge in caring for the young once hatched, and have proved to be excellent parents. Looking through records kept, this sub species will breed at any time of the New Zealand year, even when frosts are with us. Chicks are taken out of the aviary three weeks after fledging. I have witnessed the cock getting quite aggressive to youngsters who have overstayed their welcome, the hen usually being the pacifier between cock and youngsters. Sexing of the young seems to be quiet easy with this particular pair, as young cocks have a deep abdomen and hens have patches of green within the same area. However they are still DNA sexed to confirm gender.

I recently visited a pet shop and was horrified to discover hybrid Lorikeets offered for sale, Red Collards crossed with Rainbows. This kind of neglect should be avoided at all costs, especially the cost of the species involved. They may look pretty, yet in the wrong unsuspecting hands, whether for pets or breeding, would prove dangerous to the future purity of any particular species, as aviculturalists should strive for purity is possible. This I know could open a can of worms with less available species, and fair enough too, but when reasonably available species are treated in this way, then these ‘aviculturalists’ should think seriously about what they intend to do with this non valuable (in terms of genes) stock. Phew, that’s better, I’ll come off my high horse now. As long as aviculturalists are considerate of all species that they keep, e.g. using unrelated pairs, breeding to purity, then I’m confident that this species will continue to thrive in New Zealand.

Red-collar hen with 3 month old baby.

6 week old red-collar almost with complete plumage

Last modified: 17 December 2001.