Rainbow Lorikeet 1: A future pest in Singapore?
A few months back Jeremy Lee wrote: “I was in Perth in 2001 when I though it might be a good idea to find out how I could legally bring back a pet Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) to Singapore. There were plenty of birds to adopt from those animal refuge centres. However, the paperwork was daunting, besides this bird is in the CITES species list.
“I think this bird should be more correctly taken out of the CITES list and put on the banned potential immigrant list :P
“At that point in time, I was wondering how could this bird be endangered when there were so many in Australia? They were even nesting in downtown palms!
“The New Zealanders have been trying to get rid of them. As an alien species the bird is creating havoc to the local species.
“If it is as tough a species as I take it to be, once a breeding colony is established in Singapore from birds escaping from the pet trade (or owners giving them up because of their messy feeding habits), in ten years time I may be seeing Rainbow Lorikeets flying around instead of Red-breasted (Psittacula alexandri) or Long-tailed Parakeets (Psittacula longicauda).”
Robert Teo agrees that this bird can be a problem, just like the Red-breasted Parakeet (top left) that is displacing our native Long-tailed Parakeet (top right). Similarly, Lim Jun Ying feels that much as immigrant birds may be better suited to their new environment, they do not belong. He cites the example of the Brown Tree Snake that was accidentally introduced into Guam. Within a few years, it drove eight out of the 11 or 12 endemic bird species to extinction.
KC Tsang thinks otherwise: “Birds like the Rainbow Lorikeet should not be considered a pest as it is behaving in ways that nature has destined it to do, and to survive as best as it can… But I cannot say this for crows, as they are true pests by any human definition.”
Our bird specialist, R. Subaraj has the final word: “Rainbow Lorikeets has been flying free for some years now. Besides the regular birds at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, they have also been recorded from a few other places such as Loyang, Upper Thomson and Pasir Laba.
“However, despite being around for some time now, they seem to have difficulty establishing themselves in Singapore. And it was not until last year that we actually have a reportedly successful breeding record. The previous nesting failed, due to predation by a monitor lizard. We are still monitoring the situation. However, there is no cause for alarm just yet.
“Besides Rainbows, other lory species have also been recorded free flying here, including at least a couple of species from the Red Lory complex of Indonesia.
In a country such as Singapore, where bird trade is a staple business, escapees are prevalent and diverse. For decades we have been concerned about the Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus) and the House Crow (Corvus splendens) feral populations. A few new introductions are beginning to take over parts of Singapore but the authorities are not too concerned as they have yet to become pests to humans.”
Thanks to Jeremy Lee, Robert Teo, KC Tsang, Lim Jun Ying and R Subaraj for their input. Images of Rainbow Lorikeet perching on a branch of the Golden Penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus) tree (top) in Singapore, Red-breasted (bottom left) and Long-tailed Parakeets (bottom right) by YC.