Status: Rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) are a controlled animal under the
Nature Conservation Act 2002. Importation is prohibited in Tasmania.
Pest Risk Assessment Rainbow Lorikeet
© Jennie Stock, Courtesy of IA CRC
Rainbow lorikeets are approximately 30 cm long with a 45 cm wingspan. They are brightly coloured with a blue head (which distinguishes them from other Tasmanian parrots), green wings, tail and back, and an orange-yellow breast.
Juveniles are generally duller than adults, with a much duller brownish-orange bill. Rainbow lorikeets have a swift, direct flight with rapid whirring wing beats and display flashes of dark green and bright red. They screech continuously while in flight, when at food sources and at roost sites.
Rainbow lorikeets are often seen in loud and fast-moving flocks, or in communal roosts at dusk. In flight, they appear slim, with angular backswept and finely pointed wings combining with a long tail (held tightly folded and tapering to a fine point) to give a distinctive rakish silhouette.
The rainbow lorikeet is regarded as either a pest of agriculture or an unwanted organism in New Zealand, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
Rainbow lorikeets are highly mobile, have generalised feeding and breeding requirements and can quickly adapt to exploit new feeding and breeding resources. They have taken advantage of the year-round supply of native and exotic food plants available in Australia's major cities and are expanding in number and distribution in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.
The rainbow lorikeet has a native range that includes south and east Indonesia, east through New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the north and east of Australia. In Australia, the rainbow lorikeet occurs from northern Queensland and along the east coast to Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.
The rainbow lorikeet is considered a vagrant to Tasmania and has been recorded as single sightings in the north of the state, all thought to have arrived naturally. Other records in the south, in areas around Hobart, are probably aviary escapes. The natural distribution of the rainbow lorikeet includes areas similar in climate to Tasmania and there is therefore potential for this species to establish in Tasmania.
View recorded distribution information in
Natural Values Atlas
View recorded information in the
Atlas of Living Australia
Rainbow lorikeets are a threat to native Tasmanian parrots and would compete with the musk lorikeet, the EPBC-listed swift parrot and green rosella, for food and resources.
They also pose a potential disease risk as they are carriers of Psittacine beak and feather disease.
Assessing the impact of the rainbow lorikeet on commercial crops is difficult because the damage caused by birds in orchards is rarely quantified. However, lorikeets are a serious pest of cherries, apples, pears and stone fruit and a very serious pest of grapes in Australia. Rainbow lorikeets have the potential for high impact on Tasmania's agricultural industries.
Rainbow lorikeets reach sexual maturity after two years and a pair of rainbow lorikeets can produce up to three broods of two eggs in a season. The breeding season varies widely between regions, depending on climate and resource availability, but generally occurs from August to January in southern Australia.
The female incubates eggs for 23 days and is fed by the male in the morning and evening. Fledglings leave the nest at around 45 days and the parents continue to feed the young for a period of two to three weeks after fledging. After breeding, rainbow lorikeets congregate in large flocks.
Prompt action is vital: fewer than 10 rainbow lorikeets were released near Perth (Western Australia) in the 1960s; by 2006 the population was estimated at 15 000 to 20 000 birds.
The Invasive Species Branch is currently managing a control program to reduce the numbers of feral rainbow lorikeets in Tasmania.
The Tasmanian public should be on high alert for this species and report all sightings. Early detection and rapid response to incursions is vital.
Please report rainbow lorikeet sightings to the Invasive Species Branch on 03 6165 3777 or by email to:
Did you know?
Lorikeets are high flying birds and will rarely be seen on the ground. They spend most of their time in the outer foliage of tall trees.
For information on rainbow lorikeets in Tasmania, contact the Invasive Species Branch on 03 6165 3777 or by email to:
Pest Risk Assessment Rainbow Lorikeet
PestSmart Connect is a toolkit of information on best practice pest animals management in Australia. It has been developed by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.
Rainbow lorikeet factsheet (476 KB)
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