Aquarium of the Pacific - Online Learning Center - Species Print Sheet
Conservation Status: Safe for Now
Climate Change: Uncertain
Once a subspecies of the Rainbow Lorikeets, in 2012 Forsten’s Lorikeets were given their own species name, Trichoglossus forsteni. In addition to the birds on the island of Sumbawa where the common name of Forsten’s Lorikeets was used, birds on four other Indonesian islands with different subspecies and common name were incorporated into the new species.
Forsten’s Lorikeets’ other common names are Sunset Lorikeets and Scarlet-Breasted Lorikeets. They are not currently on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List, but their conservation status is under study.
At the Aquarium
Our lorikeets either came from the Aquarium’s breeding program or from U.S. captive breeding programs. None have been imported. All our lorikeets including Forsten’s have distinctive personalities and even respond to the names given them by the aviculturists who feed and nurture them.
Native to the Indonesian islands of Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Tanahjampea and Kalaotoa
Length: to 23 cm (9 in) Weight : about 95 gr (3.35 oz) Males and females are usually similar is size; however, males living in aviaries and similar protected environments can be slightly larger.
Forsten’s Lorikeets have a blue head which is streaked with violet-bluish feathers. Thief cheeks are also violet-blue. Their breast is plain red or orange depending on the island inhabited, their nape is bright yellow. Their backs upper wings, and tail are lime-green. Beak and iris are orange-red and their feet are gray. Males and females are similar in coloration.
Their diet in the wild consists of pollen and some nectar, seeds, berries, fruits and soft-bodied insects and larvae. They are considered agricultural pests in some parts of their range due to their appetite for orchard fruit and soft, unripe grains. They drink surface water and water trapped by leaves.
Food is stored in their crop for short periods to be regurgitated to feed themselves, their partners, or their chicks. Because they have immature gizzards, they can only eat soft, non-fibrous foods. Their intestinal tracts are short and soft food is easily and rapidly digested. Since most of the food they eat is low in nutrients, they must eat frequently, and because most of what they eat is regurgitated liquid, they excrete liquid very frequently.
These lorikeets usually become sexually mature at about two years of age. It is believed that they form life-long pairs. Courtship is elaborate. It includes wing fluttering to show underwing patterns, head bobbing, tail fanning, sway-walking, and beak-fencing. The male emits a low whistle during much of this activity.
Forsten’s Lorikeets normally nest high in unlined tree hollows, investigating several cavities before deciding on one that they will line with wood dust. They are very territorial of their nests. In the Aquarium’s aviary they nest in specially designed nest boxes and sometimes in tunnels they dig under rocks and plants.
One to three oval white eggs are usually laid; however, the number may be only one or three. The eggs are usually incubated by the female for about 23 days, but the male may spend a good deal of time in the nest as well.
Chicks are antiracial at birth, that is, undeveloped and requiring parental care. Fed by their parents, they remain in the nest for 49-56 days. They become completely independent about 14 days later. In the Aquarium’s breeding program, some chicks are removed from their parents and are hand raised, to accustom them to the presence of people and to teach them to accept nectar from our visitors
Forsten’s Lorikeets roost in a centralized location where it is thought the birds congregate to communicate about discovered food resources, to find potential mates, and teach feeding techniques to inexperienced fledglings. Roost sizes vary seasonally.
At dawn the flock leaves the roost to begin its journey to the feeding grounds, that are generally within 32.2 km (20 mi). It is believed the birds find their way back and forth by following geographic features such as hills, valleys, or rivers. Traveling flocks generally consist of 16 birds, whereas feeding flocks may include up to 20 birds. At times, when several traveling flocks land in the same location, there may be up to 1,000 lorikeets!
The tips of their tongues are covered with small surface projections called papillae, that resemble enlarged taste buds. These papillae increase the surface area of the tongue, acting like a sponge. They enable the lorikeet to collect a greater amount of pollen. The tongue moves very rapidly in and out of the food source, enabling the bird to collect larger quantities of food and therefore spending less time feeding.
Lorikeet beaks have adapted to make it easy for them to extract hard-to-reach seeds from cones. The upper mandible has a pointed tip and is much narrower than that of their parrot relatives. For harder fruits the birds scrape the fruit on the inside of their open bill and then remove the juice with their specialized tongue.
The feet of these birds have two forward and two backward-facing toes. These, combined with their strong beaks enable them to be excellent climbers, hang upside-down, and in general perform an astonishing array of acrobatics, especially while feeding.
Lorikeets do not have oil glands. Instead they preen their feathers by using powder down obtained from special feathers that have tips that constantly break down forming a waxy powder.
At the present time Forsten’s Lorikeets have not been evaluated for conservation status nor are they protected by the Indonesian government. While common on the island of Sumbawa, they are becoming scarce on the other islands they inhabit. Their limited range, destruction of habitat, introduction of non-native rats and snakes, and collection for the pet bird trade may have enough collective impact to change their status in the future.
Many of our birds can talk. Their vocabularies include words such as thank you, hello, come ‘ere, watcha doin’, hi, and some can say their names. Some even blow kisses!
Among our lorikeets are some very distinct personalities. Some birds are expert at unbuttoning buttons on clothing, and one can even re-button them. Some can untie knots, remove backs of pins or earrings or undo Velcro.