All About Rainbow Lorikeets

All About Rainbow-Lorikeets
Meeting: Rainbow-Lorikeets

Meeting: Rainbow Lorikeets

The Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus heamatodus mollucconus is one of the 21 species of the Trichoglossus genus. It is a very familiar bird to most Australians due to its presence throughout parks and gardens in heavily populated capital cities. Flowering shrubs producing pollen and nectar, along with fruiting trees and vines, are its preferred food. It is not a shy bird, so can easily be approached while feeding and often displays or shows off with comical behaviour. This is one reason Rainbows are very commonly kept as pets. Over the past 25 years, a number of mutation colours have been developed, giving added meaning to the word ‘rainbow’.


Both sexes are similar in appearance.
The head is violet-blue, with lighter blue feather shafts. The collar at the back of the head is yellowish-green. The chest is varying shades of red-orange, the abdomen violet-blue, back and wings are bright green, underwing yellowish with orangered feathers, the undertail yellow and the beak orange-red.

Immatures are slightly darker in colour, with a black beak.


Rainbows inhabit mainly coastal areas of northern and eastern Australia, from the tip of Cape York to southern areas around Adelaide, in South Australia. The birds rarely venture more than 350km inland from the coastal fringes. Rainbows thrive in coastal towns and cities, parks and gardens, also taking advantage of higher rainfalls. Rainbows have also become a pest when congregating in their thousands in roosting trees within city limits, leaving excrement and creating deafening noise all through the night, often in lit areas.

Over recent years, a large colony has established itself around the city of Perth in Western Australia, probably due to escaped birds, and they have become a pest, causing authorities to take action due to significant damage to vineyards and orchards in the Swan Valley and Perth Hills.

It only takes one pair of Rainbows to get a taste of fruit, whether in vineyards or orchards. The word spreads and soon the birds are there in their thousands.

One vineyard owner reported leaving a handful of grapes on his vines at the end of the season that had not been suitable to use. He noticed a couple of pairs of Rainbows eating them. The next year he didn’t pick a single grape because the lorikeets turned up in their thousands, damaging the whole year’s crop.

Rainbows eat all fruits and, when food supply is plentiful in any given area they inhabit, the population explodes.



It is best to house Rainbow Lorikeets in suspended aviary flights, with a covered safety flight at the rear. Flights should measure about 2.4m long x 90cm square, with roof area of 1.5m covered with roofing iron, and at least a 1m sheeted partition at the back of the flight for privacy in feeding and a nesting area.

Only one pair should occupy each flight to eliminate aggression.

Nest boxes are best mounted in the safety flight, with an access hole to the flight. This ensures there are no escapees when feeding or inspecting nests. Rainbows can be messy with excrement and I find that it’s better not to have the flights over concrete.

Instead, position the flights over earthen substrate and spread every few weeks with small layers of grass clippings. This encourages earth worms that eliminate droppings and smell and it always looks clean.

Nest boxes can vary in shape and size as Rainbows are not fussy. We use L-shaped boxes 20cm square x 30cm deep x 30cm across the bottom, lined inside with a 5cm mixture of wood shavings and Euchy mulch. Pine shavings on their own are not suitable in warm, dry weather as they absorb too much moisture needed for the eggs during incubation, resulting in poor hatch rates.

how to feed Rainbow-Lorikeets
Feeding: Rainbow-Lorikeets

How to Feed Rainbow Lorikeets

  • Specialist lorikeet wet and dry mixes in large or small quantities are readily available from good pet supply stores.
  • Different fruits can also be given as supplementary food. Dry mix should be made available at all times, with wet mix fed once a day at about 20–25mls per pair.
  • This needs to be eaten within a few hours, or removed before it ferments, especially in hot weather.
  • Seed diets are not an option for Rainbows. Many people with backyard feeders full of seed or seed bells don’t realise the damage they are doing, as sunflower seeds strip the papillae from the lorikeets’ tongues, restricting them from extracting pollen and nectar from flowers and robbing them of a healthy diet.
  • Water bowls need to be large enough to bathe in and deep enough to ensure there’s water left in the bowl to drink after bathing. Water bowls need flushing and replenishing regularly due to some birds alternating from the dry mix to the water, and dropping food into the bowl.

how to feed Rainbow-Lorikeets
Breeding: Rainbow-Lorikeets

How to Breed Rainbow Lorikeets

Rainbows mature at about 15 months of age, when their first attempts at breeding begin. Normally two eggs are laid and incubated for 24 days. Young usually fledge at 42–45 days and become independent 10 days later.

Rainbows are a very popular aviary bird due to the mutation colours developed, with aviculturists still producing more exciting colours, the most recent being Blue. Common colours available are Lutino, Olive, Jade, Blue-fronted (Melanistic), Mustard, Dilute, Aqua, Streakheaded Dominant Pied, Double Factor Pied and Single Factor Pied in Normal and all mutations.

Suitability as Pets

Many Rainbow Lorikeets are handreared because they make excellent pets. They are very intelligent birds and will mimic anything. They love to show off by dancing, swaying from side to side and playing dead. They talk, sing, whistle, laugh, mimic the phone or even bark like a dog.

It’s best to start handfeeding at four weeks as at this stage they don’t require a brooder for heat. Within a few days they become very quiet from constant handling. The more they are handled, the quieter they become. Chicks can be fed with a syringe on any handraising formula available at good pet outlets. Once they reach 42 days, they can be weaned on lory wet and dry mixes.


Although Rainbow Lorikeet can be a major pest for commercial crops and agriculture in Australia, there is no doubt the mutation colours available have seen their popularity in aviculture soar. Providing they are fed proper lorikeet diets, Rainbows will breed and thrive in captivity. The availability of commercially produced lory foods, and providing good housing in suspended flights, makes keeping Rainbow Lorikeets easy.

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