Like hummingbirds, Australian rainbow lorikeets eat pollen and nectar. In fact, they have a specialized tongue that allows them to do so. So imagine the surprise of bird experts after discovering of a population of lorikeets who have taken to eating meat.

Photos: Matt Watson.

As noted by Griffith University Professor Darryl Jones in an ABC Online article, lorikeets typically consume nectar and pollen which they obtain from native plants and shrubs. Jones, who studies the feeding habits of birds around the world, was floored by the discovery that a certain population of lorikeets has started to eat meat.

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"I'm up to date with all the kinds of crazy things that birds are eating all over Australia," he told ABC Online. "To see a lorikeet eating meat astonishes me completely. I have never heard of such a thing before."

It apparently got started in an Australian backyard when a property owner put out minced meat for magpies, currawongs, and kookaburras. He also put out seeds for vegetarian birds like galahs, king parrots, and rainbow lorikeets (who really shouldn't be eating seeds because they damage their delicate tongues). It's also worth pointing out that the property is located next to native trees and shrubs, so food supply is not a problem for the lorikeets.

But seven years ago, the property owner noticed the lorikeets eating the meat, and they've been eating it ever since. In fact, they have even started to chase other birds away in an effort to defend the meat.

"It makes no sense at all," says Jones. "It makes me wonder very strongly that these particular birds, the individuals in the picture, are probably needing some protein. But the birds look extremely healthy in those pictures."

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Wildlife conservationist Fran Sanders, who has been looking after animals and birds in Brisbane for 25 years, says she's never seen or even heard of lorikeets eating meat.

"I'm absolutely amazed and horrified," she told ABC Online.

As to why the lorikeets have taken to the meat, neither Jones or Sanders have an answer, though they suspect it may be sign of opportunistic feeding.

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Because it's so rare, Jones would like to hear from anyone who has observed lorikeets eating meat.

[ ABC Online ]

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