Mindanao Lorikeet

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William Warby

Is the Mindanao Lorikeet right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Mount Apo Lorikeet, Johnstone's Lorikeet

Scientific name: Trichoglossus johnstoniae

The basics:
As an endemic species of the mountain forests of Mindanao island in the Philippines, the Mount Apo or Mindanao Lorikeet may face some challenges because of deforestation of its wild home. Like other lorikeets, they are highly regarded for brains as well as beauty. Properly socialized birds can be trained to fly to visitors, and these beautiful yet friendly avian clowns could be rewarding pets or aviary birds for the well-motivated, well-financed individual. Alas, they can be impractical for the average person, since these nectar-eaters do demand an expensive, high maintenance lifestyle. Because of their rarity and restricted range, they are rarely seen outside of the Philippines except in zoos.

These mostly greenish, somewhat smallish lorikeets catch the eye because of the pinkish cheeks and forecrown slashed by a dark purple eye band that makes it look as if the birds are wearing a tiny mask.

48 - 62 grams (1.7 - 2.2oz.)

Average size:
20 centimeters (8 in.)

15 - 25 years

Behavior / temperament:
When breeders have been able to obtain pairs, they have reported that this species is fairly easy-going and eager to breed. They presumably have the same capacity to make fine pets as the other Lorikeets, but they should probably be placed in breeding aviaries when possible to help conserve the species both in the wild and in aviculture.

Housing the Mount Apo Lorikeet, 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 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. This species is from humid tropical mountain forests, not snow-capped ranges, so be prepared to protect it from winter's chill.

They may appreciate a small nest box to sleep in.

Feeding any lorikeet 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.

Most Lorikeets 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 Mount Apo Lorikeet 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.

That said, 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 lorikeet.

Written by Elaine Radford

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