Nature Centre’s birds of many colours

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Welcome to Animal Magic – a series of fortnightly columns where we take an in-depth look at some of Tilgate Nature Centre’s popular, and less well-known animal residents.

This week we take a look at a pair of parrots who have just become proud parents – our Swainson’s lorikeets.

Swainson’s lorikeets

(Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus)

Rainbow species

Swainson’s lorikeets are members of the rainbow lorikeet family, along with more than 20 other subspecies. These colourful parrots are commonly found in the rainforests, coastal bush and woodland of Eastern Australia and Tasmania.

Colourful taste

Complementing their colourful feathers is their fruity and flowery diet. They feed on fruit, insects and seeds and our birds are particularly fond of apples and bananas.

The main part of their diet however is nectar and pollen which they collect from flowers with their specially adapted tongues which have a brush-like tip covered in hair growths known as papillae.

We feed our pair a specially formulated nectar replacement, which comes as a powder and mixed with warm water. This is refreshed two or three times a day so they’re never short of something sweet to eat! As a treat we give them flowers which they collect nectar from before taking great delight in chewing up the petals.

Travelling chicks

Swainson’s lorikeets lay clutches of two eggs which hatch after 27 days. Chicks emerge blind and with a thin covering of white down – quite different to the rainbow appearance of the adults. Chicks hatch with a black beak which gradually brightens to orange as they approach adulthood.

Our pair recently welcomed a new chick which will leave the nest box in a couple of weeks. The female sits on the eggs and looks after the chicks but at night she is joined by the male, in fact they will sleep together in the nest each night even when not breeding.

Over the years they have bred regularly with the chicks moving to other collections, most recently to Banham Zoo where they inhabit a newly opened walkthrough exhibit.

Australian aviary

Our pair of Swainson’s lorikeets arrived at Tilgate Nature Centre in 2010. Just before Christmas they moved into a new aviary which they share with other Australian birds including kookarburras, cockatiels and barrabands.

This very colourful and noisy flock of birds make the Australian aviary the perfect place to see some interesting bird behaviour so make sure you pay them a visit!

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