The Iris Lorikeet is currently divided into three subspecies and occupies primary and montane forests of Indonesia, preferring tall trees. The nominate subspecies T. i. iris is found on the western part of Timor and T. i. rubripileum on the eastern part of Timor. The third subspecies, T. i. wetterensis is found on the island of Wetar. The Iris Lorikeet is the only lory species where more than one subspecies has been named in a single population. Since Iris Lorikeets are frequently nomadic and there is no physical barrier on Timor to keep the western and eastern populations separate, there is some question regarding the validity of the rubripileum subspecies. The Iris lorikeet is considered vulnerable throughout its range and is a “restricted-range” species, meaning that the range of this species is limited and could be easily threatened. It is currently listed on CITES Appendix II. Of the three species of lorikeets found on Timor, it is the least abundant.
The Iris Lorikeet is a greenish-yellow bird with bright red forehead and purple ear coverts. The red of the forehead extends to the back of the head and becomes scattered as it reaches the yellow nuchal band. It has a bright orange beak and iris and the feet and skin around the eye is grey. It is a small bird measuring around 7 inches (18cm), but it is a bit stockier than the other small lorikeets weighing 65-75 grams. In the wild, the diet of the Iris Lorikeet is unknown, but it most likely consumes the seeds of a fruit with a hard exterior due to its strong beak and habit of holding food in its foot, a trait not shared by other species of lories (except Musschenbroek’s).
Iris Lorikeets are not very common in captivity. Very few were ever brought into captivity and many of those that were brought into captivity did not survive long since they were fed incorrectly. The Iris Lorikeet, unlike other lory species, does not thrive on nectar. I feed my Iris Lorikeets similarly to how I feed my fig parrots. They should be fed a varied diet including fruits, vegetables, seeds, a commercial avian pellet and some nectar.
Hand reared Iris Lorikeets are an absolute joy to keep. They are by far the most energetic species I have had the pleasure to keep. They are incredibly playful and quick to learn new things. Due to their smaller size and playful nature, I highly recommend them as exceptional house pets. Although they make can make great pets, emphasis does need to be put on captive breeding in order to keep the numbers of this uncommon species in the United States.
Collar, N.J. (1997). Family Psittacidae (Parrots). Pp. 280-477 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. (1997). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions: Barcelona
Low, R. (1998). Hancock House Encyclopedia of the Lories. Hancock House: Blaine, WA