Meeting: Scaly-breasted Lorikeets

The plumage of both sexes is an overall green. The head, including the crown and cheeks, lower back, rump, upper tail and wings are emerald grass-green. Males exhibit a more brightly coloured iridescent blue-green on the crown. Feathers on the mantle, throat, breast and upper abdomen are yellow, edged with the bright green that gives a scaly appearance. Both the inner thighs and undertail coverts are a mixture of lime and pastel yellow, while the secondary underwing covert feathers have a pastel pink, orange-red band. Splashes of bright red-orange can be seen on the shoulder bend and occasionally the edge of the median wing covert. Primary wing feathers are edged with varying amounts of dark blue-black. The undertail is a mixture of dirty yellow to light brown bordered by green. A red iris and coral-red beak are a stark contrast to the green feathering.
Juveniles are duller in colouration.

Scalys are known to be very active, playful and can be noisy at times.


Habitat and Range

Scaly-breasted populations stretch from the eastern coastal areas north of Cooktown in North Queensland south to the coastal Illawarra area of Wollongong in NSW (south of Sydney), as well as some regions of Victoria and south-east South Australia. There are reports that the Scaly-breasteds close to Melbourne are an introduced colony. They mostly frequent areas east of the Great Dividing Range, although some can be found in areas slightly west of the range, depending on food supply and water availability.

This lorikeet inhabits seasonal flowering native trees and shrubs including Pandanus, Melaleucas, Cabbage Tree Palms, Grevillea and Swamp Mahogany Eucalyptus robusta growing in coastal, subcoastal swamps and river woodlands. They are arboreal and feed on nectar, pollen, blossoms, berries and other fruits, as well as insects and larvae. The nectar of Melaleuca trees, particularly the broad-leafed species Melaleuca quinquenervia, is a favourite.

It is not unusual to see Scaly-breasted Lorikeets in urban parks and gardens, especially when Cocos Palms are flowering.

Scalys love the flower pinnacles that grow up to 2m long and have hundreds of small yellowish-white flowers laden with nectar.

Orchards and vineyards suffer damage fruit and growers regard the lorikeets pests, often going to extremes using scare guns and nets in an attempt to save their crops. Scaly-breasted Lorikeets are usually seen in small flocks of 10–20 birds, except when feeding on grain crops. They particularly like sorghum, particularly when the grain is in the soft, milky stage development, when flocks of Scalys will swell to about 100 birds. These sightings the numbers of birds indicate that the status of Scaly-breasted Lorikeets is very secure as a species.

Scaly-breasted Lorikeets are considered mainly nomadic, however, there are resident populations. They will play second fiddle to Rainbow Lorikeets and Musk Lorikeets when they move into their range.

Some bird feeders/observers report seeing varying numbers of both Scaly-breasted Rainbow Lorikeets co-habiting but they quickly move on when domineering Musk Lorikeets arrive in the area.

When Scalys feed in among the foliage of trees they are very difficult to see, although their loud chattering can be easily heard. They are swift flyers and can be seen darting from tree to tree to a food source.


Housing: Scaly-breasted Lorikeets

Scaly-breasted Lorikeets are very common in aviculture. They have become even more popular in the past 30 years as a result of demand for mutation colours—Lutino, Grey-green, Cinnamon and Mustard.

Good breeding results are more common when these birds are housed one pair per flight in suspended flights. We have found that flights only need to be 2.4m long x 0.8m square, with a covered roof shelter and side area enabling privacy.

Commercial lorikeet mixes, consisting of a dry and wet formula blend, are readily available from pet shops or veterinary clinics. The dry mix, a pollen substitute, makes up around two-thirds of the birds’ total diet. Wet mix is a substitute for nectar that is an important part of their diet.

Scalys need only a small portion at least once a day. They will devour fresh native plant flowers and enjoy small amounts of fresh fruit such as oranges and apples in season. It is important to keep the wet feed bowls and water containers clean to prevent fungal, bacterial or water-borne infections.

how to breeding Scaly-breasted Lorikeets

How to Breed Scaly-breasted Lorikeets

Depending on the climate, Scaly-breasted Lorikeets will generally attempt to nest twice a year. A nesting box measuring 30cm deep x 20cm square, with a 6cm entrance hole is adequate. Female breeding maturity age is 12 months, while in males it is at 14–15 months of age.

During courtship males display by hopping along the perch towards the female in a circular motion, stretching the body upright while dilating the pupils and bowing the head.

Generally two eggs are laid on a layer of wood shavings, after which the female incubates the eggs, which hatch after 22 days. Chicks fledge at 42 days and young become independent 10 days after fledging. Juveniles resemble females and require surgical or DNA sexing to determine their sex.

Nesting material needs to be replenished after young fledge to remove the accumulated wet excrement. These lorikeets are known to roost in nest boxes at night.


Scaly-breasted Lorikeets are an ideal bird for any level of bird keeper. They are playful and very active but can be quite noisy. The unusual colouring and mutations make these birds an attractive addition to any collection, as well as inexpensive to obtain.

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