Hooray! One that isn’t endangered, extinct, or completely made up! But given how hard it was to find more details, I’d say there’s more evidence for actual fairies. I even had to use Bing.
This adorable little bird is a type of parrot, and some of its more famous relatives, such as the rainbow lorikeet, are known for getting so drunk on fermented fruit that they have a tree named after them, and occasionally dabble in meat-eating. The fairy lorikeet, or little red lory, on the other hand, just sounds like the stuff of fantasy, because it lays its eggs in air plants and lives in the Cyclops Mountains.
Well, that’s not strictly true. “Air plants”, or epiphytes, are so-called because they grow on top of other plants or objects. And while the Cyclops Mountains in Papua are home to the rothschildi subspecies, you’ll find the fairy lorikeet throughout West Papua, Papua and Papua New Guinea. The other subspecies is C. pulchella pulchella – so “beautiful little, beautiful little” in Latin, and in case you didn’t get the idea, another subspecies was going to be named C. pulchella bella – “beautiful little beautiful”. C. thesaurus is obviously yet to be discovered.
The name isn’t surprising though, because the fairy lorikeet has all the colour and joy of a Christmas ornament, and when feeding chatters as excitedly as children on Christmas morning. It usually hangs about in pairs or large groups, and is happy to share its treetop dining table with the other lorikeet species flitting around its home jungle. Pollen and nectar are top of the menu, devoured mercilessly using its brush-like tongue, and chased down with soft fruit.
In captivity it breeds continuously – because what else is there to do – but in the wild it’s only December to January, and possibly April, when the clock strikes love. Both Mum and Dad share the incubation load, and after the eggs hatch in 25 days’ time, it’s Dad who’s sent off to the supermarket. Two months later and their offspring are ready to fly away and mingle with the colourful carnival of the rainforest.
Like most parrots, the fairy lorikeet is intelligent, playful, and extremely vocal, to the point that it even has a regional accent. If it hails from the west or Asian side, its “kk” call is more nasal, whereas the eastern or Australasian resident has a higher and more clipped call. I’m sure this forms the basis of several of its comedy routines, along with the fact that, thanks to its simple digestive system, fruit can pass through its beak and out the other end within half an hour.
Latin: Charmosyna pulchella pulchella/rothschildi
What? A small parrot
Where? West Papua, Papua and Papua New Guinea
How big? 18cm/7” long
Endangered? No, although it’s popular in the international bird trade
Probable motto: I’m as sweet as the nectar I eat, but all the fruit makes me toot.
They sound cute. Do they need my help at all?
Not per se, but as always, their habitat is under threat. Check out these organisations if you want to help their rainforest home:
Just to prove I’m not fibbing
Axelson, Rick. No date. “Lories and lorikeets – feeding.” VCA Hospitals.
“Charmosyna pulchella.” No date. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
“Fairy lorikeet (Charmosyna pulchella)“. 2014. Pets. All Breeds and Species [translated from Spanish].
“Fairy lorikeet (Charmosyna pulchella Gray, GR, 1859.” Avibase, the world of bird database.
“Fairy lorikeet (Charmosyna pulchella)“. No date. iNaturalist.
James, Colin. 2017. “Lorikeets get intoxicated on drunken parrot tree in Adelaide Botanic Gardens.” News.com.au.
“Lory and Lorikeet.” No date. San Diego Zoo Animals and Plants.
New South Wales Government, Office of Environment & Heritage. 2018. “The danger of feeding lorikeets.”
Parr, Mike, and Juniper, Tony. 2010. “Parrots: a guide to parrots of the world.” A&C Black, ISBN 1408135752
Petruzzello, Melissa. No date. “Epiphyte“. Britannica.com.
“Psittaculidae – old world parrots.” No date. Fat Birder.
“Pulchella (Latin)“. No date. Wordsense.
Image credit: Unknown, but found on https://www.mascotarios.org/en/lori-lindo/