Lory parrots have been popular aviary occupants for many years. They have bright colours and clownish characters. Their loud and lively greetings also add to the flamboyance of these parrots when kept in an aviary.

What has stopped people keeping them as pets?

In the wild, lories feed on a very wide variety of foods. Flowers are their favourites. "They use their specialist brush-like tongue to gather pollen. It is also long and perfect for reaching into flowers for nectar. Fruit and berries are high on their list of most favourite foods and they will also eat a few insects.

Cause for confusion: In aviculture, many foods have been fed to lories. They have been fed mashed potatoes, milk and sunflower seeds to name just a few. The diet of lories has been the reason people have not kept them as pets. Even now, each breeder has his own preferred diet. The diets vary greatly and this has caused confusion.

Most diets are based around a nectar substitute. It is now possible to buy powdered diets to which water is added. These are preferable to some of the home-made mixes as they have been formulated to cater for the lories' calcium, vitamin and mineral requirements.

Some breeders are trying different diets for their lories, with dry food being used more often. This is particularly done in hot countries where the nectar substitutes will go bad in the heat. Breeders that advocate dry-based diets also recommend more fruit. Some vegetables are also offered, for example peas and sweet corn. A dry diet is far less worrying for the pet owner or breeder, because it is quite safe to offer it when you are not at home. The fruit and vegetables can be given when you are around, to monitor the freshness.

House pets: Lories being fed a nectar substitute are far from ideal as house pets. The resulting droppings can be squirted by the birds - not very suitable for walls and carpets! The nectar needs changing two to four times daily to ensure it is safe to eat - impossible for most owners with busy work schedules away from home.

However, lories fed on a dry-based diet and correctly hand-reared, do make excellent pets. They are still a little messier than a seed eating parrot - their droppings are looser and these birds are messy eaters - although the mess is usually confined to the cage. Perches need cleaning regularly. Due to their untidy eating they enjoy regular bathing or spraying with tepid water to keep their vivid feathers in top condition.

Strong personalities: Yellow-backed Lories are clowns, mimics and a joy to know. They have great talking potential when compared with similar sized parrots and can produce a real human sound to their voice. They are also capable of mimicking unusual sounds. We have had them learn sneezes, crying/water running, the bubbles from a straw etc. They usually accompany cage cleaning time with the appropriate sponge wiping and squeaking sounds. Hand-reared Yellow-backed Lories have good personalities and you can forge a strong relationship.

One of these birds in our breeding programme had the knack of saying something, laughing or doing his telephone impression at the funniest moments. When he was at the veterinary surgery for surgical sexing he made the day of the receptionists with his telephone impression - about six of them ran for the phone! He was kept as a pet prior to our owning him and he went on to be a pet again. He wanted human company and was still very tame after his time with a mate. We continued to hear stories of all his crazy sounds for many years.

Yellow-backed Chattering Lories will make their presence known by jumping around, burrowing, swinging, climbing and making noise. They are very active and fun. They will greet you first thing in the morning and at night they will still be trying to get your attention. I hope more people might consider these wonderful parrots for pets, and enjoy them.

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN AND KINDLY CONTRIBUTED by Liz Lovell and was published in the UK magazine 'Parrots' issue 21 - April/May 1998.

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