Varied Lorikeet
Psitteuteles versicolor

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The varied lorikeet is a small parrot found in northern Australia, where it found in tropical eucalyptus forests and grasslands. Although common in the wild, they are arguably the least commonly kept Australian lorikeet, predominantly held by specialist lorikeet breeders. Varied lorikeets have a reputation for being difficult to breed, which contributes to their high price and low availability.

Photo credit: J.P.Robertson

Housing & Compatibility

Due to their high-moisture diet, Lorikeets produce a large amount of liquid faeces. Many breeders use suspended flights; which allow droppings to fall through the bottom. This reduces exposure to dangerous bacteria and parasites. Frequent cleaning is necessary and the aviary should be designed to accommodate this. A substrate of sand or gravel that can easily be replaced or pressure-cleaned is needed in traditional style aviaries.

The varied lorikeet should not be kept in a small cage or cabinet. A large, planted aviary is an ideal environment for keeping this species. There is very little information available about keeping varied lorikeets in mixed collections, so attempt this at your own risk. They should be limited to one pair per aviary.

Varied lorikeets will use a roosting nest throughout the year. This will provide them with additional protection from cold weather and encourage stronger pair bonds.

Diet

Lorikeets possess a brush tipped tongue which is used to extract nectar and pollen from flowering trees. In captivity; a commercial lorikeet mix and a variety of fruit and vegetables is acceptable. Apple, pear, grapes, tomato, and strawberries are particularly enjoyed.

Commercial lorikeet mixes can often be fed dry (in powder form) or wet (mixed with water). Dry food and fresh water should be available at all times, as wet lorikeet food spoils quickly and needs to be replaced several times a day – especially in hot weather.

Lorikeets should not be permitted to consume seed, as it can damage the brush tip on their tongue and contribute to a variety of health issues; many of which lead to a reduced lifespan.

Breeding

Varied lorikeets will breed from late winter until the final weeks of spring, however breeding at other times of the year is occasionally observed. They typically produce one clutch of two to four young per season. Some pairs may produce multiple clutches per year.

Breeding usually commences at 12-18 months of age. Eggs are incubated by the hen for approximately three weeks. Young birds will fledge the nest six to eight weeks after hatching and be fully independent from their parents a few weeks after that.

They will readily accept a wide variety of hollow logs as nesting receptacles. Commercial nesting boxes, designed for small-medium sized parrots, can also be used. The nest box should have a shallow bed of rotting wood, sawdust or pine shavings to provide cushioning. The large amount of liquid faeces produced by young birds will quickly soil the nest box, so it needs to be thoroughly cleaned between clutches. Some breeders drill small holes into the bottom of the nest box to allow moisture to escape.

Sexing

DNA sexing is the only way to reliably sex varied lorikeets. Experienced keepers may be able to guess the sex based on behavioral clues.

Mutations

There are no known legitimate mutations of the varied lorikeet. Some breeders may attempt to hybridize the birds with other Australian lorikeet species to transfer visual attributes. This practice harms the genetic purity of the captive population and is strongly discouraged.

Health

Due to their high-moisture diet, lorikeets produce a large amount of liquid faeces. If aviary hygiene is not adequately maintained, bacterial and fungal infections can thrive. In traditional aviaries, keeping the substrate as dry as possible is essential. Ensure there is good drainage and a substrate—ideally sand—that can be frequently replaced.

Similarly, it’s also important that a lorikeet’s food supply is not permitted to spoil. Fruits, vegetables, and “wet” lorikeet food should be removed on the same day as it’s placed in the aviary. In hot weather, food will spoil more quickly so it may be necessary to provide multiple feedings throughout the day.

A preventative worming and parasite control regime should be applied to ensure the long-term health of your birds.

A healthy varied lorikeet may live for up to 15 years.

Last modified: August 5, 2018

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