Bird of the month

April's bird of the month: Purple-crowned Lorikeet

Tuesday, 2 April 2024

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5 things about Purple-crowned Lorikeets

Meet April’s bird of the month…the Purple-crowned Lorikeet! Here are 5 things you may or may not know about these lovely lorikeets.

In the centre of the frame, a brightly-coloured Purple-crowned Lorikeet is perched on the branch of a flowering eucalypt against a blurred green, blue and brown foliage background. Below its foot is a pink gum blossom.
Purple-crowned Lorikeets mostly feed on the pollen and nectar of flowering eucalypts. Photo by Jordan Aquilina @thebirdnerd_

1. They’re only found in southern Australia

Purple-crowned Lorikeets are found in dry open eucalypt forests, woodlands and mallee across southern mainland Australia, and are the only lorikeet species native to WA. They’re also found in urban parks and gardens, and populations near Adelaide have increased thanks to extensive planting of native plants in gardens.

Sadly, their population has declined in areas where their woodland habitat has been cleared, including north-western Victoria and the Wheatbelt of WA, and they are listed as Vulnerable in NSW.

To the left of the frame, a brightly-coloured Purple-crowned Lorikeet is perched on the bare branch of a eucalypt in front of a bunch of gum leaves, against a dappled white and green background. It is looking towards the camera.
Purple-crowned Lorikeet by Ambika Bone

2. They generate buzz

The many nicknames of the Purple-crowned Lorikeet include Blue-crowned, Porphyry-crowned or Purple-capped Lorikeet. They’re also known as the Zit Parrot for their shrill calls – a tsit-tsit-tsit repeated in rapid succession or a thin quick zit-zit when feeding and in flight. Compared to other lorikeet species, their calls are less shrill and have a distinct buzzing quality.

“Purple-crowned Lorikeet (Glossopsitta porphyrocephala)” from xeno-canto by Marc Anderson. Genre: Psittacidae.

3. They’re important pollinators

Often, it’s this buzzing call as they rocket overhead or the sharp metallic chattering of Purple-crowned Lorikeets feeding high in the canopy that first reveals their presence.
While they’re known to occasionally feed on fruits, berries, lerps and insects, pollen and nectar from flowering eucalypts makes up most of their diet.

Like other lorikeet species, Purple-crowned Lorikeets are important Australian pollinators. They visit up to thousands of flowers every day to dine on pollen and nectar with their special brush-tipped tongue. Pollen that sticks to the beak and feathers of feeding Purple-crowned Lorikeets is transferred between flowers, which helps the plant reproduce.

To the right of the frame, a Purple-crowned Lorikeet is perched in a pink flowering gum and feeding on the blossom. Its beak is inside one of the flowers and it is facing down towards the camera, showing its distinctive purple cap.
A Purple-crowned Lorikeet foraging for nectar, showing its distinctive purple crown. Photo by John Barkla

4. They’re nomadic

Purple-crowned Lorikeets are blossom nomads – meaning they move in irregular and unpredictable patterns according to the availability of food and follow the blossom of trees. However, some populations appear to stay in the one place where large areas of suitable habitat remain.

5. They don’t fly solo

Purple-crowned Lorikeets form monogamous pairs and are never far apart, and both parents care for their chicks. They’re gregarious and live together in flocks – and while they’re often found in scattered pairs or small groups, Purple-crowned Lorikeets are known to congregate in large flocks, sometimes in the hundreds, where food is abundant.

These noisy feeders prefer to forage on blossom high in the canopy and are often found in the company of other lorikeet species.

In the centre of the frame, a pair of Purple-crowned Lorikeets are perched on their nest hollow in a eucalypt. The bird on the right is peering out from inside the hollow, while its partner is perched on the entrance. Both birds are facing to the left of the frame against a pale grey dappled background.
Purple-crowned Lorikeet pair by Chris Tzaros