When Professor Daryl Jones of Griffith University, Australia, first heard of rainbow lorikeets eating meat, he was “shocked”.1 Rainbow lorikeets are a beautiful Australian parrot species (Trichoglossus haematodus) renowned for eating fruit (much to the dismay of orchardists!2), as well as seeds, nectar, and pollen. In other words, 100% herbivorous. But two years ago the owner of a back yard bird-feeding station north of Brisbane reported that lorikeets were eating the mincemeat he’d left out for carnivorous birds, e.g. magpies, kookaburras, and butcher birds.1

Professor Jones said at the time, “To see a lorikeet eating meat astonishes me completely. I have never heard of such a thing before.”1 Given Prof Jones’s undertakings in up-to-date research on “what birds feed on all around the world”,1with particular emphasis on Australia, his surprise was especially notable. Prof Jones let it be known that he “would like to hear from anyone who has observed lorikeets eating meat”.1

And he certainly did hear from them, with more than 500 emails landing in his inbox.3 It soon became evident that the phenomenon of meat-eating rainbow lorikeets was not confined to a few birds just north of Brisbane. Rather, it was Australia-wide, “really common and really widespread”, frequently observed in captive and wild birds.3 What’s more, Prof Jones received 144 responses which indicated that other parrots, including the scaly-breasted parrot, cockatiels and the common koel, were also regular consumers of meat.

And observers reported to Prof Jones that it had actually been occurring for quite some time. “People have said they’ve seen it for up to 20 years.”3

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