The rainbow lorikeet has been established in Perth, Western Australia since 1968. From fewer than 10 escaped or released birds it is now well established in the metropolitan area.
Under legislation administered by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), rainbow lorikeets are declared pests in the southern parts of the State including the Perth metropolitan area.
Given the size of the lorikeet population in Perth, eradication is unlikely but a reduction in the numbers at key locations may be possible.
It is essential then that any lorikeets in the wild outside the existing Perth range be immediately reported so they can be safely retrieved or removed.
To prevent satellite populations becoming established in the wild, small groups of lorikeets originating from escaped or released birds have been retrieved or removed from many country locations.
Many lorikeets are kept as pets and as they are so common most have little monetary value. To guard against escapes and releases, lorikeets must be maintained in secure aviaries under a DBCA licence and unwanted birds should be surrendered, not released.
A scientiﬁc risk assessment conducted by the DPIRD indicates that the rainbow lorikeet poses an extreme threat to Western Australia. They are highly likely to establish more widespread populations and become a signiﬁcant pest.
Rainbow lorikeets are classed as managed fauna by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) under the Biodiversity and Conservation Act 2016. As managed fauna they can be taken or disturbed from any local government area in WA without the need for a license, as long as they are causing, or are reasonably expected to cause economic damage.
A fauna possesing (pet keeper's) license from DBCA is required to keep rainbow lorikeets as pets, DBCA Parks and Wildlife Service.
The rainbow lorikeet is a small, brightly coloured parrot 26-31cm in length and weighing 105-130g. Male, female and immature birds all look similar, with young birds slightly duller in colour. They have a bright yellow-orange/red breast, a mostly violet-blue throat and a yellow-green collar. Lorikeets are noisy, continuously screeching while in ﬂight, while feeding and at their roosts. They fly swiftly with rapid whirring wing beats and display ﬂashes of dark green and bright red.
Various subspecies of rainbow lorikeet occur naturally in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and northern and eastern Australia. The Red-collared Lorikeet (T. h. rubritorquis) and the Varied Lorikeet (Psitteuteles versicolor) are native to WA in the Kimberley and northern Australia generally.
In Perth, rainbow lorikeets occur in open woodlands with mature exotic vegetation. The trees in which the lorikeets thrive include the lemon-scented gum, date and cotton palms, Norfolk Island pine, coral and fig.
Lorikeets nest in tree hollows and on the platforms at the base of palm tree fronds, where they excavate a nest. Breeding can occur from April to December and the majority of nestlings ﬂedge in August. Pairs may breed twice per year when conditions are favourable.
Diet and behaviour
In Perth, rainbow lorikeets eat pollen and nectar, foliage, fruit, seeds and flower parts. They feed from exotic lemon-scented gums, spotted gums, cotton palms, date palms, coral trees, ﬁg trees, native jarrah, marri and she-oak. They also glean invertebrates such as lerp and psyllids from leaves and twigs.
Rainbow lorikeets roost in large, noisy groups which leave the roost at dawn. Large foraging ﬂocks of 10-50 birds can travel more than 50km to feeding sites. Lorikeets fly high and rarely go to ground, spending most of their time in the outer foliage of tall trees.
The rainbow lorikeet is a major pest of agriculture in Australia. It is a serious pest of cherry, apple, pear, stone fruit, grape and vegetable crops, and field crops such as sorghum, flowers and ornamentals.
Rainbow lorikeets cause significant damage to commercial table grape crops in the Swan Valley and orchard fruit crops in the Perth hills.
The lorikeets damage suburban garden fruit and flowers, foul outdoor areas and vehicles with droppings and harass and compete with native birds. Lorikeets have been reported feeding on backyard grapes, ﬁgs, pears, apricots, nectarines, loquats, mulberries, mangoes, passionfruit, cherries, apples, peaches, plums and guavas.
Rainbow lorikeets aggressively protect feeding and nesting resources, potentially excluding native species. They are carriers of Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease and are a potential disease risk to wild and captive parrots.