The other Lorikeet

Green parrot in tree
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

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!

I took this photo in Oak Valley, on the first Wildlife Queensland walk of the year. Check the branch blog for a full report on the event and for news of upcoming trips.

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.

Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Lorikeets and Ibis

Yesterday, for some unknown reason, was an exceptional day for birds in my garden.

Sacred Kingfisher on power-line
Sacred Kingfisher, Todiramphus sancta
Rainbow Bee-eater on power-line
Rainbow Bee-eater, Merops ornatus

The day began well with these two beautiful small hunters. They are both the same size (Slater’s Field Guide says they are both 23cm long, a little smaller than the Rainbow Lorikeet) but the Bee-eater (see its front view here) takes insects on the wing while the Kingfisher takes larger, heavier ground-dwelling prey such as grasshoppers and small lizards.

Our big paperbark is in blossom and the Rainbow Lorikeets have discovered it. Flocks of them hurtle into the tree and … vanish. They are so brightly coloured that they should stand out like clowns at an undertakers’ convention, but somehow they don’t.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet in paperbark blossom

As well as all these, I saw (but didn’t photograph) a Sunbird, some Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (they’re in town for the Dry season), a Cuckoo-shrike and our usual Honeyeaters. Finally, standing at my front gate I saw these Ibis heading for the mangroves of nearby Ross River.

Three Ibis in flight
White Ibis, Threskiornis molucca, in flight