Lorikeets are a family of small to medium-sized parrots which have specialised as nectar and pollen feeders – not that they are averse to the odd insect when it comes their way. The species we know best is the Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus, common across the Top End, right down the East coast and across to Adelaide, and gorgeously coloured.
Their nearest relations are another species in the same genus, the Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus. They are very much the same size, have the same habits (they even feed together sometimes) and have a similar range, being found from Cape York to Melbourne but not across to Adelaide or the Top End.
The individual in my photo is the first I’ve positively identified or photographed so I can say with great confidence that they are not as common around Townsville as the Rainbow Lorikeets but I’m not sure just how uncommon they are. Given their similarities, it would be easy enough to assume (wrongly) that any green parrot high in a flowering paperbark or poplar gum was the familiar Rainbow. I will look more carefully from now on!
Australia does have another four species of lorikeet but they are all smaller and duller than the Rainbow and Scaly-breasted, and only one of them (the Little Lorikeet) is known in our region. Ian Montgomery has a couple of nice photos of them from Paluma on his invaluable site, Birdway.