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Chattering Lory

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Is the Chattering Lory right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Yellow-backed Lory (L. g. flavopalliatus)

Scientific name: Lorius garrulus

The basics:
The Chattering Lory is a vocal, assertive talking parrot who loves to mimic and play. Names like “chattering” and ”garrulus” give an accurate impression of this energetic bird's desire to provide a non-stop commentary in its small voice, but it isn't an excessively noisy species. Warning: The Chattering Lory can be impractical for the average person, since they demand an expensive, high maintenance lifestyle.

There are three subspecies of the Chattering Lory, all three of them endemic to various islands in the Northern Moluccas, Indonesia. Joseph Forshaw's Parrots of the World describes the species as endangered, an assertion that has been widely repeated, but The International Union for the Conservation of Nature rates its status as “vulnerable.” The situation certainly bears watching, since this upland species seems to be rather shy in the wild with a preference for primary forest. Forshaw suggests that this lory was wiped out near lowland human habitation by excessive trapping. There's also a worry that loggers are now taking the biggest trees – the same trees where Chattering Lories choose to nest.

Appearance:
The Chattering Lory is the only Lorius with an all-red head, so you won't confuse it with the Black-capped Lory or its other close relations. The green wings of the Chattering will stop you from confusing it with any of the red Eos lories. The Yellow-backed Lory is a particularly beautiful subspecies of the Chattering, thanks to the way the broad patch of yellow on the back contrasts with the brilliant red.

The three subspecies are not difficult to distinguish. The Yellow-backed Lory, L. g. flavopalliatus, has that lovely yellow patch on the back, while the nominate L. g.garrulus has a smooth all-scarlet back. The third subspecies, L. g. morotaianus, may not be commonly encountered, but it's similar to the Yellow-back, except that the yellow patch is distinctively duller and suffused with green.

Weight:
180 - 250 grams (6.3 - 8.8 oz.)

Average size:
30 centimeters (12 in.)

Lifespan:
20 - 30 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Chattering Lory is rated as active, even hyper, and always ready to gossip, chatter, and play. They are affectionate birds that bond to their owners, but they don't care to share with other birds or, indeed, any other pets at all. They certainly don't want to share quarters with another bird to allegedly keep them company. Like several other lory species, they can be aggressive toward your other pets. They want to bond with you, and be your bird, with plenty of one-on-one time. They are a highly regarded species for people who love spending time with them and including them in family activities.

Housing:
Housing the Chattering Lory is another genuine challenge. 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 Chattering Lory's flight cage is 24”w x 24”d x 24”h, 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.

The Chattering Lory has a reputation for being a hyper-active, somewhat aggressive pet. Always teach your pet to step up on your arm or a hand-held perch on command, so that you can move it to or from the cage area without a struggle. These playful, active birds love toys, so provide plenty of them. A nest box for sleeping at night could be appreciated too. They are sometimes reported to be escape artists, so you may want to equip the flight or aviary with padlocks.

Diet:
Feeding a Chattering 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.

Chattering 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 Chattering 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 that the pellet or mix is a low iron product intended for lories.

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 Chattering Lory.

Written by Elaine Radford