Lorikeets and Lories are a species of parrot that you won’t forget once you meet one! They are colorful, interactive and almost always ready to play. Native to Australia, southeast Asia, Polynesia and Papua New Guinea, these birds are commonly found at interactive zoo exhibits. Their tongues are different from other parrots and a have brush tips that allows for these birds to eat nectar. Zoos will give out cups of nectar to visitors to feed the birds and learn about these unique species. Many people have these birds as pets but they are slightly different than other psittacine birds.
Due to their high energy levels, these birds need lots of opportunity to play and a large cage is a must. Numerous perches should be available in the cage at different levels to allow for exploration. Variable perch shapes and textures are important just like in other species. Due to their unique diet, lories and lorikeets have more watery stool. To help deal with the mess that this can create, many owners will place the cage on linoleum, tile, or hardwood floors. If that is not possible, placing a large piece of plastic covering over the floor is recommended. This is in an effort to avoid soiling carpets and rugs. Cleaning the bottom of the cage and the floor surrounding the cage needs to happen frequently.
There should be toys and foraging opportunities available to keep these birds stimulated. A variety of wooden and plastic toys are available at pet stores. Small pieces of notebook paper, paper towels, or plastic bottle caps are other readily available home-made toys. Untreated wood braches from citrus or apple trees can be given to these birds to allow for them to chew apart. More information on ideas for toy making can be found here. Due to their unique diet foraging for food items is a little different than other species. Fresh foods can be hung on metal skewers in difficult locations so that the bird has to figure out how to reach the food. Hiding small pieces of fresh foods in plastic foraging toys can be done as well. Providing fruits with the rind on can be fun for the birds as well. It is important to remember to not leave fresh foods out for more than a few hours in order to avoid things going rancid.
Access to sunlight is recommended just like in other birds. The ultraviolet-B rays in sunshine help the body to make vitamin D3 on its own. This is used in turn to allow for appropriate calcium absorption. The best way to provide this is to take a bird outdoors and allow it access to unfiltered sunlight. Keeping a bird indoors near a window may help allow for normal circadian rhythms but glass and window screen block the ultraviolet-B rays. A bird should be monitored closely while outdoors to ensure it does not over heat or fly away. If you do not have a safe way to give your bird access to unfiltered sunshine, a safe alternative is to provide a lamp that emits ultraviolet-B, such as Zoomed's Avisun 5.0. These lights should be 12-18 inches from the bird and used for around 6 hours a day.
Dietary needs in lorikeets and lories is different than in other species of psittacines. They eat a specialized diet of nectar and fruits. There are many commercial lorikeet and lorie nectars available on the market for pet birds. It is also very important to also know that these birds have a different need for iron in their diet. They are able to extract almost all of the iron present in their food which can lead to iron storage disease (also known as hemochromatosis) if too much iron is present. Life-threatening levels of iron build-up in the cells of the liver and other organs which can lead to profound liver damage and organ failure. Affected birds can have difficulty breathing, a fluid-filled swollen belly, depression, or even suddenly die. Treatment of hemochromatosis is possible and requires different medications and dietary adjustments. Depending on the severity of the disease at presentation, prognosis will be variable. Prevention is always easier and the best thing we can do to avoid the disease, therefore, a low-iron diet is key. Food should contain less than 100 ppm iron (100 mg iron/kg food), and some veterinarians believe lorie diets shouldn’t exceed 50 ppm. A commercial diet with iron content under 100 ppm should be 75 to 90% of a lorie’s diet. The rest of the diet should be low-iron produce such as listed in the table below, with any fruit between 5 and 10 ppm iron used no more than twice a week. Vitamin C plays a role in promoting absorption of iron, but it is still necessary in the diet. Any item with more than 75 ppm vitamin C should be used no more than twice a week, and any fruits 250 ppm and over should only be occasional treats.
Be sure to have your drinking water’s iron content checked, even if you are getting bottled water or using a mineral filter. As a general rule, public drinking water has 0.3 ppm iron since high concentrations affect its taste. This level should not affect lories and lorikeets adversely. However, groundwater (well water) is often over 100 ppm iron.
Iron content (ppm) and vitamin C content (ppm) of recommended fruits and other produce for lories, and suggested frequency of use.