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Stella's Lorikeet

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Is the Stella's Lorikeet right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: N/A

Scientific name: Charmosyna stellae

The basics:
The Stella's Lorikeet is an aviary bird which is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful of the lories. It's fairly rare in captivity, and it can be impractical for the average person, since they demand an expensive, high maintenance lifestyle. Two morphs exist in nature- a red or scarlet and a less common melanistic (blackish) form.

Until recently, Stella's was regarded as one of four subspecies of the Papuan Lorikeet, so you may find information on this bird under the old scientific name of C. papou. This mountain species is found in eastern Papua New Guinea. The melanistic birds in particular seem to be well-adapted to higher, cooler altitudes, and more of these morphs are reported at higher elevations. However, the flip side of the coin is that these darker birds are more susceptible to heat stress in captivity. Never place in them in a flight where they can't keep reasonably cool.

Appearance:
Both male and female adult Stella's Lorikeets sport long, dramatic, streamer-like tails. The overall impression is of a red lory with green wings and a long green, yellow-tipped tail. The adult female red morph sports a bright yellow lower back. The melanistic morph replaces black in the places where normal birds possess red or yellow. The length of the bird given below includes the tail.

Weight:
100 grams (3.5 oz.)

Average size:
39 centimeters (15.5 in.)

Lifespan:
20 years

Behavior / temperament:
While Stella's Lorikeet isn't often kept as a pet, they are reported to be rather quiet but extremely active. They can be affectionate birds that bond to their owners 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, and the males of this species may even do a little dance for their owners or visitors. However, they can't be neglected, and they must be socialized with kindness and plenty of interaction. A neglected or mismanaged hormonal bird can bite.

Housing:
Housing the Stella's 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. However, bigger is better, the better to enjoy the streaming tail as the bird flies or displays.

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 Stella's flight cage is 36”w x 48”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. However, this species, especially the melanistic morph, is susceptible to heat stress. Don't place them in an over-heated greenhouse, and always have a misting system programmed to come on when the temperature soars.

A single Stella's Lorikeet demands a playgym with plenty of toys to keep this energetic bird sufficiently entertained.

Diet:
Stella's 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.

Stella's Lorikeets are extremely vulnerable to iron storage disease, 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 Stella's 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 Stella's Lorikeet.

Written by Elaine Radford

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