Ornate Lorikeet

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Is the Ornate Lorikeet right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Ornate Lory

Scientific name: Trichoglossus ornatus

The basics:
The Ornate Lorikeet is a multi-colored nectar-eating parrot that attracts admirers because of its energy, personality, and beauty. Properly socialized birds have been trained to fly to anyone, and 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. They also lean toward the feisty side, with some people complaining that the mature birds become biters.

The Ornate is a native of Sulawesi, Indonesia, as well as the larger offshore islands in the area. They are a rather common species in a variety of upland habitats ranging from 300 to 1,000 meters.

If you are wondering how to distinguish the Ornate Lorikeet from the many subspecies of its popular relative, the Green-naped or Rainbow Lorikeet, simply examine the face. None of the many subspecies of Rainbow Lorikeet has the bright scarlet cheek patch on the lower face. That final touch of scarlet may be what has caused some people to declare the Ornate Lorikeet the most beautiful lory of them all.

110 grams (4 oz.)

Average size:
25 centimeters (10 oz.)

25 - 35 years

Behavior / temperament:
The colorful Ornate Lorikeet doesn't know its own size. These energetic birds may try to dominate the home, including other pets. They are intelligent, so keep them occupied learning tricks and playing with toys, rather than giving them the opportunity to pull the cat's tail. Learn the signs that your bird is becoming beaky, and know how to distract it from biting. You don't want to inadvertently train your lorikeet to nip to get its way.

Any of the Trichoglossus Lorikeets has the potential to become a playful clown and a decent talker. Start early, work with kindness and respect, and you may be surprised at the pet quality of these beautiful birds. However, expect the Ornate Lorikeet to keep you on your toes. Know the signs that your pet may be about to bite, and learn how to distract the bird before the biting becomes a bad habit. The species is still relatively rare in aviculture, and there is nothing wrong with having a plan to set up your Ornate Lorikeet in a breeding situation when it gets older if you decide that the bird has lost its tameness.

Housing the Ornate 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 Ornate Lorikeet'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. .

Ornate Lorikeets can develop a tendency to bite. 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. Provide plenty of toys and chew items to channel that energy. They may appreciate a small nest box to sleep in.

Feeding an Ornate 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.

Ornate 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 Ornate 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 Ornate Lorikeet.

Written by Elaine Radford

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