Here’s the catch-up bird of the week as promised yesterday.
If you looked at the photos and said “that’s just a Rainbow Lorikeet!”, you’d be right, sort of, and if you said “that’s like a Rainbow Lorikeet but different” you’d be right exactly. This is the Northern race (rubritorquis) of the Rainbow Lorikeet and is sufficiently distinct to have once been considered a separate species, the Red-collared Lorikeet. The differences include the orange, rather than yellowish-green nape and the orange, rather than red, breast and black, rather than purple, belly.
It’s range is similar to that of the previous bird of the week, the Green-Backed Gerygone – including both the Kimberley district of NW Western Australia and the Top End of the Northern Territory – but it extends farther east around the Gulf of Carpentaria as far as Western Cape York Peninsula in Queensland.
Like the eastern race, this is a noisy, gregarious and common bird and very easy to take for granted. It took an English birder (thank you, Nigel!) to point out how amazingly beautiful and colourful the Rainbow Lorikeets are, a comment that stopped me in my tracks and made me regard them in a new light.
I took these photos during my stopover in Mataranka. This place is famous for its thermal springs which feed the Roper and Little Roper Rivers with permanent water. The water emerges at a temperature of 34ºC/93ºF which would be wonderful in a cold climate, but is far from refreshing when the air temperature is 37º as it was when I was there. For my second swim, I chose to swim with the (shy) Freshwater Crocodiles http://www.birdway.com.au/crocodylidae/freshwater_crocodile/index.htm farther down the Roper River where the water was cooler.
The permanent water makes Mataranka an oasis in a dry landscape with great stands of Fan Palms and Pandanus. The similarity to :Lawn Hill and Adel’s Grove in Northwestern Queensland is more than just a coincidence, as Lawn Hill Creek is fed by the same giant, subterranean, geological structure as Mataranka, perhaps 600-700 km away. The only thing missing at Mataranka is the Purple-crowned Fairywren http://www.birdway.com.au/maluridae/purple_crowned_fairywren/index.htm .
Anyway, time to pack up and leave Darwin for Kakadu. I hope that I’ll have something more special than a mere subspecies for you next week!
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: email@example.com
Here is a link to the Rainbow Lorikeet that Ian mentioned. He has some fabulous shots of them.
Some interesting facts about the Lories and Lorikeets from Wikipedia:
“The Red-collared Lorikeet, Trichoglossus rubritorquis, is a species of parrot found in wooded habitats in northern Australia (north-eastern Western Australia, northern Northern Territory and far north-western Queensland). It is sometimes considered a subspecies of the Rainbow Lorikeet, but today most major authorities consider them as separate species. No other member of the Rainbow Lorikeet group has an orange-red collar over the nape.”
“Lories and lorikeets are small to medium-sized arboreal parrots characterizedby their specialized brush-tipped tongues for feeding on nectar and soft fruits. The species form a monophyletic group within the parrot family Psittacidae. Traditionally, they were considered one of the two subfamilies in that family (Loriinae), the other being the subfamily Psittacinae, but new insights show that it is placed in the middle of various other groups. To date, this issue has not been resolved scientifically. They are widely distributed throughout the Australasian region, including south-eastern Asia, Polynesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia, and the majority have very brightly colored plumage.”
“Lories and lorikeets have specialized brush-tipped tongues for feeding on nectar and soft fruits. They can feed from the flowers of about 5,000 species of plants and use their specialized tongues to take the nectar. The tip of their tongues have tufts of papillae (extremely fine hairs), which collect nectar and pollen. In the wild, lorikeets feed on nectar and pollen from plants and flowers.
Lorikeets have tapered wings and pointed tails that allow them to fly easily and display great agility. They also have strong feet and legs. They tend to be hyperactive and clownish in personality both in captivity and the wild.”
Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it. (Daniel 4:12 ESV)