Scaly-breasted Lorikeets are a common sight on Bribie Island and are breeding residents, as are the more common Rainbow Lorikeets. From time to time, we have visits from Musk Lorikeets and Little Lorikeets, but these are brief and related to flowering native trees. There are 6 species of Lorikeets in Australia.
Scaly-breasted Lorikeets are medium-sized lorikeets at 22- 24 cm and 71-97g in weight and second in size to Rainbow Lorikeets. They are mostly green with red bills, eyes and underwings. Feathers on their necks and breasts are tipped with yellow which gives them a scaly appearance – hence the name. They are the only lorikeets with all green heads. When feeding in green foliage they are difficult to detect. Their call is similar to that of Rainbow Lorikeets but has a sharper, shriller ring. Flight is rapid through the trees with a splash of red showing under the wing as they fly. Male and female are similar in appearance. At night large flocks often roost with other Lorikeet species in tall trees making much noise until they settle for the night.
They are found in most types of vegetation on the east coast of Australia from Cooktown to about Wollongong and west in Queensland to about Charleville and have been introduced to southern Victoria. Eucalypt forests, woodlands, heathlands, parks and gardens are favourite food hunting grounds. They are both sedentary and migratory – moving when food runs out and flying to new areas where there are fresh supplies.
Diets are made up of mainly nectar and pollen which they extract with the help of their brush-tipped tongues. Eucalyptus flowers are their main source of food, but they also feed on other native flowers, garden flowers, fruits and seeds. Some grain farmers regard them as pests if they raid their crops.
Breeding takes place in our local area from about August to February. Nests are built in hollow limbs and there is often a scramble with other birds fighting for the not-soabundant hollows. Wood dust made by the parent birds lines the nest where 1-3 pure white eggs are laid. Males provide the food while the female incubates the eggs for about 23-25 days. Both parents feed the chicks which leave the nest after about 6 weeks.
Scaly-breasted Lorikeets were first described in 1820 by a German naturalist, Heinrich Kuhl. The scientific name comes from the Ancient Greek – Khloros – “green-yellow” – and lepidotos – “scaly”. Their conservation status is secure in their habitat areas. The population appears to be stable. The shortage of hollows for nesting is always a worry.