Sunday, October 17, 2004

Rainbow Lorikeets

There’s nothing quite so overlooked as something you can see every day. I’m guessing this is why we Australians don’t make a fuss of the Rainbow Lorikeet. But such a beautiful bird! Look at those colours!


They seem to be invading this district: I see them practically every day now. Apparently they’re quite hardy, and prepared to take on the Noisy Miner (an aggressive little bird fond of gang warfare, often driving other birds away).

Apart from incredible colours, Rainbow Lorikeets are characterised by a peculiar sound, which I will now try to recreate... It’s something like a muffled bell saying a quick “nyup-nyup-nyup” - but warm and chattery. (Okay, so that didn’t work at all. Sorry.) They also have a distinctive type of flight: imagine drawing a cartoon boat on a wavy sea; the line you’ve used to depict the sea looks like their flight in profile. They make their nests in hollow trees or other enclosed spaces.

Which explains why one Lorikeet couple once tried to nest in the roof overhang outside the kitchen window here. One of them would sit on the guttering while the other tried to squeeze into the ceiling through a loose bit of corrugated iron. Unfortunately this was not a good spot for a nest. The eggs would have been cooked in the heat, or eaten by a carpet snake (many old country houses have these snakes living in the ceiling; this is a terrifying possibility which I avoid thinking about). I patched up the gap in the roof and made them a little nesting box instead. From my point of view it was a really dinky little house, and they should have been thrilled and exceedingly grateful, but the birds didn’t like it at all and went away.

Beautiful, chatty, fussy about real estate... And Australians don’t idolize them. What a puzzle.

PS. While Googling for a picture I discovered that in fruit-growing areas of Australia, Rainbow Lorikeets are regarded as pests. And they fight with other birds over nesting sites. But... but... but...! They look like such nice little birds!