What is a lory? | Lories vs lorikeets

Australasia is home to a wide range of native parrots. Among them are colorful species from a subfamily called Loriinae, usually referred to as lories or lorikeets. But what is a lory? And what is a lorikeet? Are they the same? Do they make suitable pets?

Let’s go into lories and lorikeets: their differences, similarities and whether you should consider getting one.

What’s in a name?

So, what is a lory? If you’re familiar with parrot naming, you’ll know that both ‘lory’ and ‘lorikeet’ are names used to refer to parrots from the tribe Loriini, subfamily Loriinae. The names are often considered interchangeable, but did you know that this is not correct?

In reality, lories and lorikeets are technically not visually the same, although studies have shown that they form part of the same group. In fact, the difference between them is a lot like the difference between parrots and parakeets.

  • Does it have a long tail and relatively small, slender body shape? It’s likely a lorikeet. The most well-known genus of lorikeets is Trichoglossus (including the popular rainbow lorikeet, Trichoglossus moluccanus). There’s also Charmosyna, Neopsittacus and more.
  • Does it have a shorter, blunt tail and a larger, possibly more stocky body? That’s a lory. Lories include the genera Eos (including the popular red lory, Eos bornea), Pseudeos, Lorius and more.

Now, that was the official version. Unofficially, though, you can’t really be sure what people are talking about if they’re referencing a ‘lory’. The name tends to be used as an abbreviation for ‘lorikeet’ just as much as it’s used to refer to actual lories.

Does it matter? In the end, not really. Referring to a lory as a lory can help make it a bit clearer what kind of bird you’re talking about exactly. However, what exactly defines the difference is subjective, as with parrots and parakeets.

If you really want to eliminate all doubt, it’s always best to just use a species’ scientific name!

Did you know? Lories and lorikeets are closely related to budgies.

Two photos merged together: dusky lory parrot drinking from a nectar cup at the top, two curious rainbow lorikeets perched on a branch at the bottom. To show the difference between lories and lorikeets.
Will the real lory please stand up? Mini quiz: which of these images contains a lory species and which contains a lorikeet species?

What is a lory?

According to Animal Diversity Web, there are five genera of lories. They total 18 species, all of which amazingly colorful. In the wild, you can find lories all over New Guinea, Australia and a whole bunch of Pacific Islands, such as the Polynesian islands.

Not all lory species are popular as pets, but some of them are. The most popular ones include:

  • Red lory (Eos bornea): A bright red species with an orange beak. The most commonly kept of all the lories, it’s naturally found in tropical forests in Indonesia.
  • Black-capped lory (Lorius lory): Pretty hefty at a weight of around 180 grams, the multicolored black capped lory sports red, blue and green feathers as well as an orange beak. And a black cap, of course! It hails from New Guinea and there are several subspecies.
  • Chattering lory (Lorius garrulus): Red, yellow and green in color and naturally found in Indonesia. Unfortunately, they’re classed as vulnerable, probably due to poaching for the pet trade.
  • Dusky lory (Pseudeos fuscata): Black and brown with mottled orange coloration, making them real eyecatchers. Dusky lories occur in New Guinea.
Close-up of yellow-bibbed lory preening itself. | What is a lory? Lories vs lorikeets
Hover over image to pin to Pinterest.
Photo shows a yellow-bibbed lory (Lorius chlorocercus).

What is a lorikeet?

There are eight genera of lorikeets, together containing around 40 species. Lorikeet habitat overlaps with that of lories, which is unsurprising since they belong to the same group.

As with lories, most lorikeet species are not all too common as pets. A few of them are, though, including the following:

  • Rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccensis): By far the most commonly kept and best-known of the tribe Loriini. They’re colorful and bold, with many people in their native Australia welcoming them to their gardens by placing nectar feeders out for them.
  • Scaly-breasted lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus): Another Australian native, this species is green all over but has yellow feathers on the chest, giving the appearance of scales. It inhabits woodland and can often be found alongside the rainbow lorikeet.
  • Red-collared lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubritorquis): You’re not seeing double! This Northern Australian species is very similar in appearance to its cousin, the rainbow lorikeet. The only real visual difference is the orange nape.
  • Purple-crowned lorikeet (Parvipsitta porphyrocephala): Quite a bit smaller than lorikeets from the genus Trichoglossus, these are found in Southern Australia. They’re kept as pets in their native country but not too common outside of it.
  • Musk lorikeet (Glossopsitta concinna): It used to be grouped with the purple-crowned lorikeet but is now the sole species in its genus. This Australian lorikeet can be recognized from its bright green coloration with red patches on the forehead and ear area. It’s often found in (outer) city areas.
Shallow focus photo of curious looking lorikeet parrot. | What is a lory? Lories vs lorikeets
The rainbow lorikeet is the most common of the bunch.

What is a lory or lorikeet like as a pet?

If after reading about all of these different species you’re a little enchanted with the tribe Loriini, you’re not the only one. And it’s not just their colors. As is to be expected from birds that feed on nectar, fruits and other sugary foods, these guys are real clowns! But do they make good pets?

If you’re interested in keeping a lory or lorikeet as a pet, there are a few pros and cons to them that you might want to keep in mind.

Pros

  • You’ll love their personalities. They’re active, playful and mischievous.
  • They adore bonding with their owners and are perfect if you want to spend lots of time with your bird.
  • They’re very smart and with some patience, easy enough to train.
  • Some, like the rainbow lorikeet, have the ability to learn to imitate speech. They’re on the list of best talking parrots!

Cons

  • A liquid diet means liquid poop, which will be sprayed all over the place.
  • These guys can be loud, with shrill calls and lots of chatter.
  • Their energetic antics and constant need for attention can become a bit too much for some bird enthusiasts.
  • Without proper training, they can be nippy.
  • A small cage won’t cut it! Lots of room and plenty of out of cage time are musts.
  • They can be territorial and don’t really play nice with other parrots.
  • Their very specific lorikeet diet can be difficult to figure out for new owners. Nectar quickly spoils, which means you really have to stay on top of things so your bird doesn’t get sick.

All in all, lories and lorikeets are probably not the best choice for beginners. You have to know how to train a parrot to avoid mayhem and the nectar diet requires you to be very meticulous.

This being said, these parrots can definitely make amazing pets. There’s never a dull moment with a lory or lorikeet in the house!

A red lory (left) and rainbow lorikeet (right) share a cuddle | What is a lory? Lories vs lorikeets
A red lory (left) and rainbow lorikeet (right) share a cuddle.

Mini quiz answer: the top bird is a lory, as given away by it’s shorter tail. A dusky lory (Pseudeos fuscata) to be precise! The bottom birds are rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus moluccanus).

If you have any more questions about lories and lorikeets or if you want to share your experiences with these colorful parrots, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! 🦜

Top quiz image photo: © Powerofflowers on Adobe Stock.

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