Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Swainson’s Blue Mountain Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus, photographed at Yungaburra, Queensland, Australia. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Steve Duncan, 26 August 2009 [larger view].

Nikon D200 w/ Nikkor 300mm f/4 & TC17E.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 David
    November 22, 2009

    ahh, a gorgeous bird- the Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus: violet-blue head and stomach, a bright green back, tail and vent, and an orange breast and beak…

    now the problem in classification is that this “species” is considered a “species complex” with the some 20 “subspecies” considered separately therefore the bird above is T. h. moluccanus, endemic to eastern Australia and Tasmania and called Swainson’s Lorikeet

  2. #2 joshua
    November 22, 2009

    Swainsons Lorikeet, or Blue Mountain Lorikeet.

    This Rainbow Lorikeet subspecies is distinguished by a blue belly and a red/orange breast with no barring. Lack of a red collar distinguishes it from the more northern Red Collared species.

  3. #3 David
    November 22, 2009

    and it appears that it is feeding on one of the lilly pillies, the common name for a number of flowering trees in the family Myrtaceae (cloves, eucalyptus, allspice, guava, etc.) which has the greatest representation of species in the Australasia ecozone, characterised by clusters of pink/mauve berries…

  4. #4 Snail
    November 22, 2009

    I don’t think that’s a lillypilly, David. It looks very much like an umbrella tree (Schefflera) (fam. Araliaceae). They’re fruiting here (Far North Queensland) at the moment, so the birds are having great fun.

  5. #5 David
    November 22, 2009

    Oh wow Snail, you are absolutely correct- Schefflera actinophylla- I’ve never, ever seen one in flower (and I used to tend over 300 of them in an indoor garden atrium in Washington, DC)!

    Schefflera actinophylla (close-up)

    Schefflera actinophylla, Malaga, Spain

  6. #6 MadScientist
    November 23, 2009

    I’m not familiar with Schefflera actinophylla, but that definitely isn’t the “lilli-pilli”. The lilli-pilli has purplish fruits about the size of grapes; they are edible and have a texture resembling styrofoam. (If it hadn’t been over 20 years since I’ve done my biology courses I may have been able to give a more detailed description of the fruit.) Many birds love it but I don’t recall any type of parrots feeding on it.

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