Sunday, 12 April 2015

Purple-crowned and Musk Lorikeets

Autumn conditions following a very dry summer has meant bare paddocks and very few flowering plants and trees across western Victoria and in south east South Australia. In response the birds have been scarce.
On arrival at the Lake Albert Caravan Park in Meningie, a small town near the Coorong and Lakes Albert and Alexandrina, we were greeted by the loud screeching calls of lorikeets when we got out of the car to set up the van.
The lorikeets were feeding in small gums loaded with large red flowers. The gums were planted around the caravan park and elsewhere as street trees, in and around the town. I first thought it was Little Lorikeets based on the calls, however on checking I was pleasantly surprised to find Purple-crowned Lorikeets, a species of lorikeet we don’t see in East Gippsland. The last time I saw Purple-crowned Lorikeets was several years ago in southwest Western Australia.
Having struggled on this trip to find many birds to photograph I soon had the camera out to grab some shots in the welcome sunny conditions. As usual the lorikeets were hard to capture as they moved quickly about through the dense foliage from flower to flower, never stopping long and rarely presenting a clear view.
Eventually I managed a few acceptable shots with many “deletes” off the camera. During my session some Musk Lorikeets turned up to feed so my time was then divided between photo opportunities for both species. I was expecting to see Rainbow Lorikeets, however to my surprise none appeared.
Purple-crowned Lorikeet
The purple crown can often look blue and is described in some field guides as blue or purple.
Busy feeding, the tongue is inserted briefly into a flower for the nectar and then the bird moves on to the next flower.
It was hard to get a clear view of the birds free of shadows.
Now and again a bird would stop feeding to check on me!

Musk Lorikeet
Musk Lorikeet sipping nectar.

The Musk Lorikeet withdraws from the flower showing the orange bill and tongue. The lorikeets must insert their tongues into thousands of flowers during the course of a day's feeding.
The much larger Rainbow Lorikeet has undergone a range expansion following new habitats created by the widespread planting of Australian native trees in urban areas. Many trees are selected for their attractive flowers, and many of these are also nectar producers, providing an abundant food supply for nectar and pollen feeders such as lorikeets and honeyeaters.
You never know when or where you might come across interesting native birds to photograph and sometimes it is in urban areas and cultivated habitat. In the dry conditions around the Coorong, these lorikeets were enjoying the food source provided by the initiative of humans to plant trees.

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