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Australian Lorikeets Discovered Eating Meat

Avian experts in Australia have recently experienced something of a surprise. They have found that several native species of parrot will eat meat. This dramatically changes what they knew about the birds and scientists are unsure as to the implications of this discovery.

Brisbane Bird Table

Last year ABC, a news and current affairs site in Australia, reported that rainbow lorikeets had been seen eating meat from a bird table in the Brisbane area. The home owner had been putting the meat out for years in order to feed magpies, currawongs and kookaburras but the lorikeets that visited the garden were also tucking in. This was curious as their natural diet was also available to them in the garden but they quickly turned to the meat.

Scientists Confounded

The meat eating lorikeets astounding Griffith University Professor Daryl Jones who had been researching the impact of feeding garden birds. He had never heard of parrots eating meat and thought that the pair of lorikeets were just a couple of oddities. But he was forced to change his mind when he received more than 500 emails from garden owners after ABC published the story and talked about his research. The emails related many stories of lorikeets and other parrots eating meat. People reported have been witnessing meat eating for up to 20 years.

Health Implications

When bird lovers heard about the story, many started leaving out meat in their gardens to see what would happen and discovered that lorikeets were, indeed, attracted to the meat. Professor Jones is concerned about the situation as the birds are nectar and pollen feeders. But they require additional protein at certain times of the year and this is why they may have been attracted to the meat. He feels that the meat could be problematic if it forms a large proportion of the birds’ diet. An overload of protein could result in calcium-related health issues.

Research Required

Professor Jones has admitted that the meat eating shows how little we really know about bird feeding. He has now received reports of other parrots including the scaly-breasted parrot, cockatiels and the common koel, regularly eating meat. He now feels that further research is urgently required. This would involve capturing wild lorikeets to establish the content of their diet. The impact of meat eating must be established as it could be having a detrimental effect on the birds’ physiology. It is possible that the meat will also influence bird behaviour.

Snack or Staple Diet?

The Professor is hoping that the meat proves to be just a snack when the birds needed protein. However, the birds concerned appear to be in very good condition which suggests otherwise. Too much fatty meat can cause liver disease even in carnivorous birds and so the situation needs to be closely monitored. Lorikeets have been doing extremely well in Australia and the birds’ population has grown. Hopefully the meat eating will not prove to be the start of big problems.


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