Australia is blessed with a veritable jewel box of birds. Parrots, kingfishers, wrens to name but a few, are bursting with colour and character. There is one species of bird, though that stands above all for its paint explosion colouration; the Rainbow Lorikeet.
I had seen the flashes of colour, streaking through the Sydney sky when I first arrived in Australia, but it was on a trip to Watson Bay where I first encountered these birds at close range.
The walk along the sandstone cliffs of the South Head and surrounds are some of the most extraordinary coastline walks in the world. The emerald trees stand out against the turquoise ocean. As tourists snapped their selfies on the cliff-tops, my attention was grabbed by the high pitched chattering that was coming from the Coastal banksia bushes alongside the path. From the sound of chatter and quarrel it seemed that there were many birds in the bush but all that could be seen was a movement of leaves and a splatter of colour.
Finally after much tiptoeing around the bushes, to the peculiar looks of the tourists, I spied a beautiful lorikeet. Moments later, another fluttered down to the edge of the banksia bush, drawn by the scent of a fresh, nectar filled flower head. Edging along the branch, through the dappled light, the bird arrives at the flower and dips into the nectar.
Once tasted, the sweet, perfumed flower becomes a drug to the bird who greedily nibbles at every part of the flower. Shuffling around the branch, hanging upside down, the lorikeet vacuumed every droplet of nectar from the banksia.
As well as being, perhaps, Australia’s most spectacular little bird (25 to 30 cm or 10 to 12 in), it is also one of the most commonly seen around city parks and gardens. Many Sydney-siders enjoy the sight of these birds on garden feeders.
During my three years of living in Sydney, I was fortunate to see or hear these sparkling birds most days while walking to the office. Whenever a small group landed in a nearby bush or tree I would always stop to watch them for a while. The day I get bored with looking at these wonders of nature will be the day I hang up the binoculars for the last time, for the Rainbow lorikeet is truly a joy to behold.
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