Guided by the light: Roost choice and behaviour of urban Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus)

Open access


1. The formation of large communal roosts is a conspicuous phenomenon associated with a wide range of bird species successfully exploiting urban environments. In many Australian cities, the abundance of the Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus), a native parrot, has increased markedly in recent decades, with the species roosting in very large numbers within suburban sites. These roosting locations are noisy and cause significant fouling of the land beneath, resulting in conflict with humans.

2. We investigated the selection of roosting sites in this species in Brisbane, Australia, by comparing characteristics of both the general sites of these roosts as well as individual trees used within roosting sites and trees that were avoided.

3. Lorikeets used a wide variety of tree types for roosting but demonstrated a clear preference for clumped trees within sparsely treed areas that received significantly more artificial light at night than otherwise suitable sites and trees nearby.

4. These features of roosting sites may enhance the detection of nocturnal predators by Rainbow Lorikeets, suggesting a potential positive impact of anthropogenic lighting. Our findings provide valuable insights into the management of roost-related conflicts in urban areas. We encourage further investigations into the possible benefits of artificial light.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016) Population of Brisbane 2016. Retrieved September 1 2016

  • Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology (2011) Brisbane district. Retrieved April 18 2011

  • Beauchamp G. (1999) The evolution of communal roosting in birds: origin and secondary losses. Behavioural Ecology 10 675–687.

  • Birkhead T. (2011) Bird Sense. London: Bloomsbury.

  • Blair R. (2001) Birds and butterflies along an urban gradient: surrogate taxa for assessing biodiversity. Ecological Application 9 164–170.

  • Box F. (2001) Possums parrots and pests: the dynamics of hollow places. Wildlife Australia Magazine 39 36–39.

  • Brisbane City Council (2012) Brisbane’s Trees Retrieved April 18 2011

  • Calf K. Adams N. & Slotow R. (2002) Dominance and huddling behaviour in bronze manikin Lonchura cucullate flocks. Ibis 144 488–493.

  • Catterall C.P. Cousin J.A. Piper S. & Johnson G. (2010) Long-term dynamics of bird diversity in forest and suburb: decay turnover or homogenisation? Diversity and Distributions 16 559–570.

  • Chace J. & Walsh J. (2006) Urban effects on native avifauna: a review. Landscape and Urban Planning 74 46–69.

  • Clergeau P. & Quenot F. (2007) Roost selection flexibility of European starlings aids invasion of urban landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning 80 56–62.

  • Coder K.D. (2000) Crown shape factors and volumes The Tree Biomechanics Series. University Of Georgia.

  • Daoud-Opit S.R. (2011) Roost choice and behaviour by Rainbow Lorikeets Trichoglossus haematodus: assessing functional explanations. B.Sc. Honours thesis Griffith University Brisbane Australia.

  • Davies A. Taylor C. & Major R. (2011) Do fire and rainfall drive spatial and temporal population shifts in parrots? A case study using urban parrot populations. Landscape and Urban Planning 100 295–301.

  • Everding S. & Jones D. (2006) Communal roosting in a suburban population of torresian crows (Corvus orru). Landscape and Urban Planning 74 21–33.

  • Fitzsimons J. Palmer G. Antos M. & White J. (2003) Refugees and residents: densities and habitat preferences of lorikeets in urban Melbourne. Australian Field Ornithology 20 2–7.

  • Garden J. McAlpine C. Peterson A. Jones D. & Possingham H. (2006) Review of the ecology of Australian urban fauna: a focus on spatially explicit processes. Austral Ecology 31 126–148.

  • Gauthreaux Jr. S.A. & Belser C.G. (2006) Effects of artificial night lighting on migrating birds. In: C. Rich & T. Longcore (Eds.). Ecological consequences of Artificial Night Lighting (pp. 67–93). Washington DC: Island Press.

  • Higgins P. (ed.) (1999) Handbook of Australian New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 4. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

  • Jaggard A. (2015) Rules of the roost: characteristics of nocturnal communal roosts of Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus Psittacidae) in an urban environment. Urban Ecosystems 18 489–502.

  • Kark S. Iwaniuk A. Schalimtzek A. & Banker E. (2007) Living in the city: can anyone become an ‘urban exploiter’? Journal of Biogeography 34 638–651.

  • Lill A. (2009) Food resources and urban colonisation by lorikeets and parrots. The Victorian Naturalist 126 70–72.

  • Longcore T. & Rich C. (2004) Ecological light pollution. Frontiers of Ecology and Environment 2 191–198.

  • Lowry H. & Lill A. (2007) Ecological factors facilitating city-dwelling in red-rumped parrots. Wildlife Research 34 624–631.

  • Martin J.M. French K. Ross G.A. & Major R.E. (2011) Foraging distances and habitat preferences of a recent urban coloniser: the Australian white ibis. Landscape and Urban Planning 102 65–72.

  • McCaffrey R.E. & Mannan R.W. (2012) How scale influences birds’ responses to habitat features in urban residential areas. Landscape and Urban Planning 105 274–280.

  • McDonnell M.J. Hahs A.K. & Breuste J.H. (eds) (2009) Ecology of Cities and Towns: A Comparative Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • McPherson E.G. & Rowntree R.A. (1988) Geometric solids for simulation of tree crowns. Landscape and Urban Planning 15 79–83.

  • McKinney M. (2006) Urbanization as a major cause of biotic homogenisation. Biological Conservation 127 247–260.

  • Navara K.J. & Nelson R.J. (2007) The dark side of light at night: physiological epidemiological and ecological consequences. Journal of Pineal Research 473 1–10.

  • Perry G. Buchanan B.W. Fisher R.N. Salmon M. & Wise S.E. (2008) Effects of night lighting on amphibians and reptiles in urban environments. Herpetological Conservation 3 239–56

  • Roberts P. Ravetz J. & George C. (eds.) (2009) Environment and the City. New York: Routledge.

  • Rollinson D.J. O’ Leary R. & Jones D.N. (2003) The practice of wildlife feeding in suburban Brisbane. Corella 27 52–59.

  • Serpell J.A. (1982) Factors influencing flight and threat in the parrot genus Trichoglossus. Animal Behaviour 30 1244–1251.

  • Sewell S. & Catterall C. (1998) Bushland modification and styles or urban development: their effects on birds in south-east Queensland. Wildlife Research 25 41–63.

  • Shukuroglou P. & McCarthy M. (2006) Modelling the occurrence of Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) in Melbourne. Austral Ecology 31 240–253.

  • Smith J. & Lill A. (2008) Importance of Eucalypts in exploitation of urban parks by rainbow and musk lorikeets. Emu 108 187–195.

  • Temby I.D. (2007) Pest or guest – some perspectives of abundant wildlife in Victoria. In: (D. Lunney P. Eby P. Hutchings & S. Burgin (Eds.). Pest or Guest: the zoology of overabundance (pp. 150–157). Sydney: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.

  • Veerman P.A. (1991) The changing status of the Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus in south-east Australia: the role of wild and escaped birds. Australian Bird Watcher 14 3–9.

  • Woodall P. (1995) Results of the QOS garden bird survey 1979-80 with particular reference to south-east Queensland. The Sunbird 25 1–17.

Journal information
Impact Factor

CiteScore 2018: 0.84

Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.365

Cited By
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 501 163 14
PDF Downloads 271 110 12