Unique Adaptations


All parrots have a number of distinctive adaptations that equip them for their unique lifestyle and set them apart from all other species of birds.

Distinguishing Features


A prominent, strong bill is designed to crack open nuts and cones to extract seeds.

Zygodactylous Feet

Two toes point forward and two point backward. Each foot can essentially work like a hand. Food is generally held in the left foot when feeding.

Movable Crest

Cockatoos are different to other parrots as they possess a distinctive erectile chest that is raised when the bird is alarmed. Male cockatoos may also raise their crest during courtship and territorial displays.

Muscular Tongue

The tongue helps to manipulate food held in between the upper and lower mandibles. Lorikeets and other nectar and pollen feeders have a brush-tipped tongue.



Lorikeets are restricted in their distribution to southern regions of the South Pacific and Polynesia. Of the 55 known species of lorikeet, only 7 reside in Australia, The Australian species are believed to be relatively recent emigrants from New Guinea. Unique dietary adaptations, such as their bush-tipped tongues, help set lorikeets apart from all other parrots. Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus)

Strikingly vibrant plumage coupled with characteristic chattering and screeching make positive identification of the Rainbow Lorikeet easy.

They are frequent visitors to many suburban backyards, while their playful nature and ability to whistle make them popular household pets.

Nectar and pollen from the blossoms of native flowers such as eucalypts, melaleucas, grevilleas and banksias, are the lorikeet's natural diet. Their bills are relatively long and narrow, enabling them to penetrate flowers and fruit. Their legs are short, thereby increasing their agility when moving amongst thin twigs and branchlets in the tree-tops.

Most of the Rainbow Lorikeet's time is spent in the trees. Despite their vibrant plumage they camouflage quite well, their presence betrayed only by their noisy chattering and characteristic screeches.

Gregarious by nature, it is common to see large numbers of lorikeets congregating at a communal food source or roosting site. Currumbin Sanctuary, a well known tourist attraction on Queensland's Gold Coast, is internationally renowned for daily visits by large flocks of wild lorikeets. To the delight of many visitors, these colorful, noisy birds perch on heads, shoulders and arms as they are hand-fed a special nectar mix – definitely a fun, but often sticky experience!

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus)

'Greenies', as they are commonly called, are often seen amongst flocks of Rainbow Lorikeets. These two birds will hybridize to produce mottled-looking offspring.

Musk Lorikeet (Glossopsitta concinna)

Like other Lorikeets, nectar and pollen constitute the major part of their diet – the pollen providing the protein content. They feed predominantly from the canopy of tall flowering eucalypts.

Little Lorikeet (Glossopsitta pusilla)

Their name alludes to the fact that these are Australia's smallest lorikeet. Nectar, pollen, blosssoms and fruit are their favored diet, however they are not troublesome to orchardists as are some other lorikeet species.

A structural adaptation that assists the lorikeet's feeding and sets them apart from all other birds is the possession of a strong, muscular brush-tipped tongue. The bristles on the end, called papillae, are retractile. During feeding, they are extended to assist in their collection of nectar and pollen from flowers.

The bristles are delicate and will wear down if rough food is ingested. Lorikeets kept as pets must receive an appropriate diet. Soft fruit, dry lorikeet mix and fresh native flowers should comprise their diet.

Attract wild lorikeets to your garden!

Establish a grove of native, flowering trees such as eucalypts, melaleucas, bottlebrushes, and grevilleas.

Typical Parrots


Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans)

A spectacular sight is a flock of these beautiful birds on the ground, feeding on the berries and the seeds of various grasses. Fortunately this sight is not a rare one, as these parrots currently remain widespread and relatively abundant. They can be observed in the outermost branches of tall eucalypts and moist forest trees.

Southern members of this species may be yellow or orange compared to their predominantly red counterparts. Despite their vibrant plumage, they are able to camouflage remarkably well into their dark green background.

Double-eyed Fig-Parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalma)

Cyclopsitta, the generic name for 'Cyclops' parrot, refers to the presence of a colored spot close to the eye in some races of Fig-Parrot.

The smallest of the parrots, they often go undetected in their rainforest habitat as they feed upon various fruits, seeds and nectar high amidst the canopy branches.

The northenmost races of Double-eyed Fig-Parrots are relatively common. However, the southernmost race, Coxen's Fig-Parrot, has been sighted on very few occasions over the past twenty years. It is one of Australia's most endangered birds, considered to be in danger of imminent extinction.

While tree hollows are the preferred nesting site of most parrots, some nest in termite mounds, while others nest on the ground.

Parrot Conservation


Australia has one of the poorest records of wildlife preservation in the world. A result of this is that many animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Parrots are by no means exempt from this carnage. There are several factors threatening the survival of these distinctive birds, two of which are outline below. Smuggling

Huge sums of money are often exchanged on the black market in return for Australia's unique wildlife. Parrots in particular are favoured across the globes as one of the most sought after types of bird.

Penalties for the illegal trapping of native wildlife are severe – 10 years imprisonment and/or $100 000 fine.

Glossy Black-Cockatoos are highly prized in illicit bird trade, their distinct beauty and threatened status making them prime targets for smugglers. Habitat destruction also presents a grave threat to the survival of these beautiful birds. Widespread removal of casuarina trees, their exclusive food source, has led to population fragmentation and a marked decrease in numbers.

Habitat Destruction

Many of Australia's native animals require tree hollows for shelter and breeding. Each of the parrots included within this brochure relies upon these hollows. In fact, almost one fifth of Australia's birds depend on tree hollows as nesting sites.

Hollows are disappearing at a rate faster than nature can replace them.

It may take between 50 and 200 years for suitable hollows to develop. Although many of us may plant one, or perhaps several trees in our lifetime, most of us will probably not live to see hollows develop in the limbs of these trees.

Present rates of urbanization, land clearing and the removal of old growth forests are responsible for the widespread disappearance of animal homes.

The survival of this majestic bird, the Palm Cockatoo, depends upon the preservation of rainforest habitat in tropical far north Queensland, as well as the elimination of illegal smuggling



Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua Galerita)

Probably Australia's most well-known cockatoo, the Sulphur-crested is also highly prized worldwide as a pet and aviary species. Individual birds may often build up an impressive, even colorful repertoire of words and sentences.

These cockatoos are also known for their longevity. It is not uncommon for the family pet Sulphur-crested Cockatoo to be handed down to a family member, having outlived its owner. In open country wild birds may congregate in their hundreds. Although 'an impressive sight', it is also one that's often dreaded by grain farmers, as many crop has been partially destroyed by these strong-billed parrots. Compensating for this crop destruction, however, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos will assist farmers by feeding upon the seeds of many nuisance weeds. A variety of nuts, roots and berries are also consumed.

Gang-gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum)

Once familiar winter residents of some of Australia's colder southern suburbs, Gang-gangs now prefer to remain amidst the mountainous regions of their distribution. They are still sighted around the suburbs at certain times of year, feeding from various fruiting trees and shrubs.

Early settlers could approach within touching distance of these cockatoos as they intently gleaned nuts and berries from their favored food trees. Only males bear the red plumage on the head, while the female is entirely grey. Their colors are quite unique amongst Australian Cockatoos, most of which are either predominantly white or black.

Hollows high up in old eucalypts provide sites for nesting, which takes place between October and January.

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo (Calytorhynchus banksii)

The most widely distributed of the cockatoos, this impressive bird, with its brilliant markings, is a feature of northern Australia where flocks of up to 200 may congregate.

Highly nomadic throughout drier inland pastoral regions, seeds of native trees and introduced pastures constitute their primary diet.

The plumage of the male is completely black apart from the tail feathers which bear a vibrant red band. Females are speckled with yellow across their head and shoulders, and possess an orange-red, variegated tail band.

Always entering the hollow tail first, they will nest in any tree that has a hollow of suitable size. The inside hollow is chewed to produce a layer of wood dust onto which a single egg is laid.

Pink Cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri)

Another name of this species is 'Major Mitchell' after Sir Thomas Mitchell, an early explorer who marveled at the huge flocks he encountered on his journey through the N.S.W. interior in 1835.

The subtle tonings of this beautiful bird render it a popular aviary species, hence making it a prime target for the illegal bird trade. Curiously, they do not learn to talk and often do not develop a rapport with humans.

During the breeding season, incubation of the egg is carried out by both parents – the male day and the female during the night.

These larger members of the parrot family require old trees with hollows of suitable size for breeding and shelter. For the continued survival of these distinctive birds, stands of old growth forests must be retained and preserved.

Parrots of the Interior

Budgerigar (Melopsittacus Undulatus)

Budgerigars are popular worldwide as domestic cage birds. Many people fail to realize that the 'budgie' as it is affectionately known, is an inhabitant of Australia's arid interior.  Its natural color in the wild is green, however, domestic colors vary from blue and yellow and even albino.

Flocks numbering tens of thousands are not uncommon sight, particularly at a waterhole.

Princess Parrot (Polytelis Alexandrae)

One of Australia's most beautiful parrots, this arid zone dweller will go to extraordinary lengths to camouflage itself. When disturbed, it will lay lengthwise along a branch in a lizard-like fashion to avoid detection.

Rarely observed in its natural state, durations of 20 years between one sighting and the next are uncommon.

Cloncurry Parrot (Barnardius Zonarius Macgillivrayi)

One of the four races of Ringmeck Parrot, this subspecies is of limited and isolation distribution.

Its subtle colors and broad neck band make it an attractive species, highly prized by aviculturists the world over. Its naturally rare status and restricted home range are compounded by the extra burden of illegal trapping which can be quite devastating on wild population numbers.

Scarlet-chested Parrot (Neophema Splendida)

Splendida, the species name of theis parrot is an apt description of its beautiful appearance.

Populations are subject to 'boom and bust' cycles, increasing during the good seasons and crashing during the droughts.

In their arid habitat, water is obtained by drinking morning dew from leaf surfaces.

Parrots of the Forests


Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus Roratus)

The male and the female of these striking rainforest birds are as distinct from each other as they are from all other species of parrot – males are predominantly green with an orange bill, whilst females are blue and red with a black bill. This marked difference in appearance, known as sexual dimorphism, initially led to confusion that each bird was a member of the a different species.

Their loud, raucous calls may be heard echoing through the rainforest canopy as they perch high, gleaning the branches for various berries, fruits, seeds and blossoms.

Different to other parrots, the Eclectus Parrot has an unusually short, square, stumpy tail.

Up to eight birds of both sexes have been observed tending a single nest.

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus Scapularis)

Residents of rainforests and heavily-timbered mountain ranges, these birds feed upon seeds, berries, nuts, leaf buds, and blossoms.

Although showing preference to native eucalypts and acacias, they have taken to introduced plants as well, and are often uninvited guests at many orchards and maize crops.

They may have become regular and numerous visitors to areas where a food source is plentiful. Hundreds of these beautiful parrots frequent O'Reilly's Rainforest Guesthouse on Queensland's Lamington Plateau, where they are hand fed a variety of seeds – an exciting experience for all visitors and guests.

About Parrots


Psittaciformes (pronounced sit-assi-forms), better known as parrots, could be described as one of Australia's most well-known groups of birds. Parrots are divided into three distinct sub-groups:

Lorikeets Cockatoos 'Typical' Parrots

Each sub-group has characteristics and traits that are readily identified by people who possess very little knowledge of birds. With their brilliant coloration and vibrant personalities, many of these birds are popular aviary species, highly prized and sought by aviculturists worldwide. Indeed this very aspect has impacted significantly upon the parrot's survival.

Australia is truly a unique continent. Following its separation from the supercontinent of Gondwana millions of years ago, both its flora and fauna have undergone a series of gradual changes to produce some of the most diverse landscapes and species of wildlife found anywhere in the world.

Visitors to our shores marvel at both the beauty and harshness of the environment, complemented by its spectacular variety of unique wildlife. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you look at Australia's birds, in particular, that well known, colorful group – the parrots.

Home in a Hollow


Providing artificial shelter and nesting sites to help Australia's native wildlife. The clearing of habitat is the main threat to many species of native wildlife trying to survive in their environment. By providing suitable nest boxes. You can offer a variety of native wildlife shelter from predators, while at the same time create a breeding or nesting site for them.