Species group: Lories and Lorikeets
Other common names: Western Black Capped Lory; Tricolored Lory
Scientific name: Lorius lory
The Black-capped Lory is one of the best-regarded pets in the brush-tongued parrot group, especially for a larger lory. This intelligent bird loves to play with its owner, and it can often learn to be a good talker, yet it isn't as aggressive or noisy as some of the other species. Beyond a doubt, these beautiful yet friendly avian clowns can be rewarding pets for the well-motivated, well-financed individual. Alas, they can be impractical for the average person, since they demand an expensive, high maintenance lifestyle.
The diverse Black-capped Lory with its seven subspecies hails from New Guinea and nearby islands in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. They are found at the margins of primary forest or well-recovered secondary forest, and they don't seem to be as comfortable with disturbed habitats near humans as some of the other lory species. They are also reported in pairs rather than large flocks, and they have even been described as solitary in some areas, unusual for a lory which must follow the flowering trees for its food. They may have an instinct for the pair bond which helps them form a strong one-person bond when kept as a pet.
Identification of this large red lory can be a challenge. There are seven subspecies, and you should consult with an expert for a proper ID if you intend to pair your bird. Also, there is a very similar species called the Purple-bellied Lory, L. hypoinochrous. Both species have a black crown with some amount of red on the chest and chin, but all seven subspecies of the Black-capped Lory have substantially more purple (or deep blue) on the underparts than the Purple-bellied Lory, which mostly has the purple in the vent region and under the tail. No, that isn't a typo. The Black-cap has way more purple (or deep blue) on the belly than the Purple-belly. Who says scientists don't have a sense of humor?
200 - 260 grams (7 - 9 oz.)
31 centimeters (12.2 in.)
15 - 25 years
Behavior / temperament:
The Black-capped Lory is one of the lories that is singled out as an especially talented mimic. It has a better than average voice, and it can also imitate a variety of sounds. Some owners call it noisy, and others don't. The difference may be that some owners start early to channel the vocal energy into voice lessons.
The Black-capped Lory is active, intelligent, and loves to play. While not regarded as a species prone to develop behavior problems, there's always the chance that your pet can become beaky or possessive if not handled properly. A well-socialized bird can be very affectionate, and your bird will expect to spend plenty of time with you.
While other lories have been seen sleeping on their backs, the Black-capped Lory is frequently noted for this behavior. They may also lie on their back while awake. Take advantage of this natural behavior to teach them a cute trick, such as playing dead or rolling over.
Housing the Black-capped Lory, especially a single pet, is another genuine challenge. Like all lories, they tend to have loose, squirtable feces that are sticky, sweet, and quickly develop an odor, so it's important to set up a cage that's easy to clean. Some people advocate clear acrylic on the sides and back of the cage, and other people suggest a long, rather than a tall cage, since a lory that gets up high can squirt its mess much further than a bird who perches lower.
Many people recommend a hanging cage over a tile or concrete floor. We don't usually have concrete floors in our houses, but it's possible that we might have a family room with a quarry tile floor. Otherwise, put down lots of plastic over that carpet or wooden flooring, as well as any nearby walls that wouldn't be easy to wash off. A minimum size for your Black-capped Lory's flight cage is 24”w x 24”d x 24”h with no more than ¾” bar spacing, but these active birds do better with even more room. A Florida room or a conservatory might be a great place for your lory, but know your plants, since you can only have bird-safe greenery where you have a busy nectar-eater checking each flower.
Black-capped Lories aren't as likely to become nippy as the other large lories, but you should train them to step up onto a hand or a perch, and you should have a playgym that is separate from the cage, to prevent an individual from becoming cage-bound or overly territorial. They will appreciate plenty of toys and chew items. They may also like a small nest box to sleep in.
Feeding a Black-capped Lory is a challenge. All lories and lorikeets are brush-tongued parrots, an unusual branch of the psittacine family tree that is evolved to feed on the nectar from flowering trees, with a little bit of flowers, fruit, and perhaps insects on the side. To create a practical version of this diet in captivity, most people start with a high quality, well-regarded commercial liquid nectar, with about 50% of the diet coming from the nectar and the remaining 50% coming from a fruit and vegetable puree or chop salad. If you have kept other parrots, you may be familiar with a chop salad that leans heavily toward the greens and vegetable side of the produce aisle. With the lories, you need to be focused mostly on the fruits, with a small amount of such vegetables as cooked corn added for variety.
Black-capped Lories are at risk for iron storage disease and gout, which means that they thrive on a low iron, low protein diet. Many deep green vegetables, including spinach, chard, and turnip tops, contain oxalates, a chemical that improves the body's ability to store iron – a bad thing for lories. Vitamin C also helps the body store iron, which means that you shouldn't overfeed C-rich citrus fruit like oranges. Similarly, a healthy “soak and cook” with plenty of sprouted beans and peas will have way too much protein for lories.
They cannot digest seed, and if you try to maintain your Black-capped Lory on a seed-based diet, it will starve. What about pellets? Most off-the-shelf pellets are dangerous for lories but, in recent decades, specialty suppliers have developed a small pellet or a dry powder, as an alternative to liquid nectar. However, not everyone agrees that these pellets are a healthy diet for lories. It does change the quality of their droppings, to make them firmer and easier to clean, but many breeders feel that liquid nectar is more natural and easier on the lory's system.
The major advantage of the new “dry” nectar is that you don't have sweet, damp food sitting in front of your bird all day. If you go this route, be sure to provide plenty of water in a nearby hanging water bottle. Be certain that the pellet or mix is a low iron product intended for lories, or don't even consider it.
Most experts do stick with liquid nectar, but we all know that nectar (sugar water!) is a great growth medium for bacteria. Hence, you have to change the nectar bottles frequently – every four hours during the day in hot weather and at least twice a day in any circumstance. You must never feed honey, avocado, or chocolate to your Black-capped Lory.
Written by Elaine Radford