Chasing Rainbows

on 21st June 2008

“The red, iron bird engaged its landing gears, sending her wheelie feet to hang. Her wings retracted leaving reminges of the ‘bird’ flapping in the wind as the aircraft was guided to a descent onto the airfield tarmac.

“A ‘boomp’ followed, confirming a touch down. My constant travels have taught me well to judge the skills and experience of pilots by how smooth and soft the ‘boomp’ they made. Sometimes, I would whisper into the air-hostess’s ear, turning dimpled smiles into laughters as I made to the exit doorway. I knew only too well my soft whispers would eventually get to the Captain’s ears.

“‘G-DAY! Welcome to the sunshine state of Australia-Queensland’.

“Peering through the glass-cabin hole, I thought it was strange there wasn’t a feathered bird in the airport vicinity to greet me.

“It was later brought to my knowledge that Coolangatta airport authorities actually have field marshals to skirt-drive around the airfield to hoot off birds that fly too near their iron cousins for comfort!

“It has been known that birds do get sucked into propellers, causing kamikaze bird deaths, bad accidents and expensive repairs and maintenance.

“Have I arrived at the other end of the rainbow? Yes!

“It wasn’t long into my birding session that a small party of gregarious Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) appeared and made a bee-line for the native blooms of Queensland Umbrella trees Schefflera actinophylla.

“What resulted was a circus like display of acrobatic skills these musical screechers so well known for, as they trapezed amongst sprays of colourful, red flowers amongst spoke-like umbrella stems of their foliages. | Image 1, 2, 3 4|.


“They wasted no time to dig in and relished the blooms, buds, seeds, nectar and all, pollinating along the way as they carried their hooked pollen-dusted beaks to the next fresh floral sprays. |Image 5, 6|


“The eastern seaboard area, skirting from Cape York to right down South Australia like a crescent, is prolific with this moluccanus race species identified by their greenish yellow collars.

“Rainforests, woodlands, eucalypt forests, open forests, gardens, heaths and urban areas with trees are their favourite areas of habitat. While there are 3 more subspecies or race to contend with, those of the rubritorquis variation in northern part of the Australian continent have red collars.

“In certain field guide books, it is categorised as a separate species called, Red-collared Lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubritorquatus.).

“Surprisingly, all races are vagrants to Tasmania… Not distant flyers?

“Rainbow Lorikeets are mainly frugivores. They have brush like tongues to lap up nectar and pollens. Blossoms, seeds and also berries are their favourites and Australia’s native Bottlebrush species, especially the red Callistemon citrinus is one of their favourite raiding haunts whom they share with their Scaly Breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus) cousins. |Image 7|

“One can only imagine during the fruit and flowering seasons, how noisy these birds do get and non-birders detesting them for being deprived of peace and quiet…

“However, despite their continuous screeching and chattering, these gregarious birds continued to be treated fondly by residents and bird lovers with generous food handouts in their garden homes.

“Conservationists would say that it is never proper to be feeding wild birds especially with processed foods for fear of overly food dependence. It is also unknowingly introducing bacteria via feeders’ hands and contaminated food itself.
However having said that, some hardy species especially the urban dwellers have showed no adverse effects to such and have multiplied instead.

“So too the ugly word , ecotourism that hangs on the other end of the balancing scale to balance the upkeep of Nature Parks and Wild Bird Sanctuaries with tourist dollars.

“A little commercial corner is not uncommonly set aside these days for tourists to feed birds especially lorikeets. It is a compromised situation hopefully under controlled conditions and everyone goes home happy.

“How could any person ignore such a colourful bird of rainbow colours? While many residents would see just a colourful bird zoomed passed, how many would actually get close enough to admire the mosaic of plumage, this species presents to live up it’s name or be models to the likes of Vincent Van Gogh?

“I was taught memory pegs during school days to remember the colours and reciting them in correct sequence order, counting from the outer bow inwards. The ‘ROYAL OF YORK GAINS BATTLE IN VAIN’.

“Readers taking the first alphabet of each word to represent the colours would get – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. See if you can seek out the 7 splendours of the ubiquitous Rainbow Lorikeet attached. Image 8

“Join me to enjoy some quality birds of the sunshine state in the next few articles and why Australians and emigrants simply love it there despite the presence of a hole in the depleted ozone, layered sky above.”


If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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