Red Lory

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Is the Red Lory right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Red Moluccan Lory; Moluccan Lory (E. b. bornea); Buru Lory (E. b. cyanonothus)

Scientific name: Eos bornea

The basics:
The brilliant and well-named Red Lory is neck-and-neck with the colorful Rainbow Lorikeet for the title of the most popular pet lory in the United States. The nominate species, the Moluccan Lory, is the most common in captivity, and its brilliant scarlet plumage will knock you off your perch. And they don't just sit around and look pretty. They can do tricks and talk a bit too. 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.

There are four subspecies of the beautiful Red Lory found in the southern Moluccas and Kai Islands of Indonesia, with large flocks that follow the flowering of their favorite nectar trees. If you plan to breed your lory, consult with an expert to make sure you match the right birds, but as a rough rule of thumb, most of the available pets will be the brilliant Red Moluccan Lory. A second subspecies, the much darker red – some say almost maroon – Buru Lory is sometimes encountered. They are quite adaptable and can tolerate some agriculture or human activity, as long as their flowering trees remain, but they are sometimes almost wiped out in a given location where they are trapped for pets. Know your breeder, and do not tolerate unethical activity.

While all Eos lories are impressive scarlet lories with blue or violet touches, the Red Lory is the reddest of the red, with no blue or violet ear patches, crowns, napes, or collars.

170 grams (6 oz.)

Average size:
31 centimeters (12 in.)

20 - 30 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Red Lory is active, intelligent, and loves to play. While not particularly noisy for a parrot, it can vocalize and even learn to talk. Sometimes it can become nippy or possessive of its special person, so learn the signs that your bird is becoming beaky. You don't want to inadvertently train your lory to nip you or anybody else to get its way. They can sometimes try to dominate other pets, and they've been known to harass the family cat or dog, so you need to provide excellent supervision in a home where they're not the only pet. If your Red Lory is currently an only pet, be confident that the bird is happy and doesn't want to share you.

They love to bathe and should be given access to plenty of clean water. They may also rub their bodies after their bath with a bit of material like a piece of eucalyptus pod. This behavior may look funny, but it's perfectly normal.

The Red Lory seems to be at higher risk than other lories for feather plucking. Don't allow the bird to become bored or lonely, and let the bird meet the person who will care for them when you can't be there. However, if the bird plucks anyway, don't assume it's a psychological problem until you have a complete work-up by an avian vet, since lories can develop some feather diseases that require expert attention.

Housing the Red 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 Red 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.

Even though Red Lories don't have the strongest beaks going, they can be beaky and they can develop a tendency to become nippy. 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 a Red 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.

Red Lories are more like soft-billed birds than parrots when it comes to their diet. They're 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 Red 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. However, if you are not CERTAIN that the “dry” pellet or mix is a low iron product intended for lories, 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 Red Lory.

Written by Elaine Radford


wonderful birds, entertaining little girl, great pet


liquid poop, liquid nectar diet, frequent cleaning, daily fresh fruit, aggressive play, feather plucking


Moluccan red lory, Buru red lory, fresh fruit requirements, stockier body, high temperatures

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