The Little Lorikeet is a small (16-19 cm; 40 g) bright green parrot, with a red face surrounding its black bill and extending to the eye. The undertail is olive-yellow with a partly concealed red base, and the underwing coverts are bright green. The mantle is imbued with light brown. The call in flight is diagnostically different from other lorikeets, being a shrill and rolling screech: ‘zit-zit’ or ‘zzet’. Although difficult to observe while foraging high in treetops, a flock’s constantly chattering contact calls give it away. Flight is fast, direct and through or above the canopy.
The Little Lorikeet is distributed widely across the coastal and Great Divide regions of eastern Australia from Cape York to South Australia. NSW provides a large portion of the species’ core habitat, with lorikeets found westward as far as Dubbo and Albury. Nomadic movements are common, influenced by season and food availability, although some areas retain residents for much of the year and ‘locally nomadic’ movements are suspected of breeding pairs.
Habitat and ecology
- Forages primarily in the canopy of open Eucalyptus forest and woodland, yet also finds food in Angophora, Melaleuca and other tree species. Riparian habitats are particularly used, due to higher soil fertility and hence greater productivity.
- Isolated flowering trees in open country, e.g. paddocks, roadside remnants and urban trees also help sustain viable populations of the species.
- Feeds mostly on nectar and pollen, occasionally on native fruits such as mistletoe, and only rarely in orchards
- Gregarious, travelling and feeding in small flocks (<10), though often with other lorikeets. Flocks numbering hundreds are still occasionally observed and may have been the norm in past centuries.
- Roosts in treetops, often distant from feeding areas.
- Nests in proximity to feeding areas if possible, most typically selecting hollows in the limb or trunk of smooth-barked Eucalypts. Entrance is small (3 cm) and usually high above the ground (2–15 m). These nest sites are often used repeatedly for decades, suggesting that preferred sites are limited. Riparian trees often chosen, including species like Allocasuarina.
- Nesting season extends from May to September. In years when flowering is prolific, Little Lorikeet pairs can breed twice, producing 3-4 young per attempt. However, the survival rate of fledglings is unknown.