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10 Things You Need to Know About the Fascinating Black Lory

The Black Lory, also known as Chalcopsitta atra, is a fantastic bird species that is native to the islands of New Guinea and surrounding areas. With their striking black plumage and colorful markings, they are a sight to behold.

In this article, we will provide you with information on how to identify these birds, their plumages, molts, and the different species that are similar to them.



Identification: The Black Lory is unmistakable with its overall black plumage, which is contrasted by a deep red under-wing coverts and bright blue markings around their eyes and beaks. They are a medium-sized bird, around 31-32 cm in length and weigh between 230-280 grams.

Males and females look identical. Similar Species: The Black Lory is closely related to the Black-capped Lory (Chalcopsitta atra) and the Blue-streaked Lory (Eos reticulata).

Both of these species, however, have different plumages, with the Black-capped Lory having a black cap on its head and the Blue-streaked Lory having blue streaks on its back.


The Black Lory has a single, fixed plumage, which is primarily black with some yellow, red, and blue feathers on its wings and tail. Juvenile birds may have some green or brown tinges on their plumage, but these fade with age.


Black Lories do not undergo seasonal molts, which means that their feathers do not tear and fall out in large numbers. Instead, they undergo feather replacement, which occurs gradually over time.

This means that if you see a Black Lory that has lost a few feathers, it is most likely due to damage rather than natural molting. In terms of feather replacement, Black Lories usually undergo a partial molt once a year where they shed and replace their outermost wing feathers.

The timing of this molt can vary among individuals, but it typically occurs around the breeding season. The Black Lory also experiences a full molt once in its life when it reaches maturity.

During this molt, the bird will shed all its juvenile feathers for adult ones. This molt occurs around 2-3 years of age.


The Black Lory is a beautiful bird species that is easily identifiable by its striking black plumage and colorful markings. By learning about their distinct features, identifying these birds in the field becomes a breeze.

Additionally, understanding their plumages and molts provides insight into the growth and development of these fantastic creatures.

Systematics History

The Black Lory was first described by the French naturalist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1818. Since then, there have been various changes to their classification, including its position in the taxonomy.

It was previously included in the genus Lorius but was later moved to the genus Chalcopsitta in the family Psittaculidae.

Geographic Variation

There is little variation in plumage across the geographic range of the Black Lory, and the species appears to be relatively homogeneous. Their range includes the Biak Island, the Yapen Island, and the mainland of New Guinea.

However, some genetic differentiation has been found between individuals from different regions, suggesting that there may be population structuring within the species.


There are two recognized subspecies of the Black Lory:

1. Chalcopsitta atra atra: Found on the mainland of New Guinea


Chalcopsitta atra schistacea: Known to occur in Waigeo and Batanta Island. These subspecies differ slightly in their plumage, with Chalcopsitta atra schistacea being more brightly colored overall, with a deep blue coloration around their eyes and beak.

Related Species

The Black Lory is closely related to the other seven species of birds in the genus Chalcopsitta, including the Yellow-streaked Lory, Black-capped Lory, and Cardinal Lory. However, molecular studies have shown that among these related species, the Black Lory is the most distinctive genetically, highlighting its unique evolutionary lineage.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Historically, the Black Lory had a much larger distribution range. They were found throughout the Moluccas and as far west as Sulawesi and the Sula Islands.

However, these populations have declined dramatically over time, likely due to habitat destruction and trapping for the bird trade. The population decline has been particularly severe in Sulawesi, where the Black Lory was thought to be extinct until 2004, when four breeding pairs were discovered.

Conservation efforts have been put in place to help save the population, including habitat protection and breeding programs. In contrast, the populations on New Guinea are thought to be stable.

However, these populations are also threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, which could lead to negative population impacts over time.


Overall, the Black Lory is a unique and beautiful bird species that has faced significant population declines due to habitat loss and trapping. Despite these threats, conservation efforts are ongoing to protect and preserve their populations.

Understanding their systematics history, geographic variation, and subspecies can help us better appreciate and protect these incredible birds. Additionally, learning about the species’ historical changes to distribution provides context for their current conservation status and highlights the importance of continued efforts to protect them for future generations.


The Black Lory is native to the islands of New Guinea, where they inhabit both lowland and hill forest habitats. They are the only lory species that occupy high-altitude montane forests, and as a result, they are capable of surviving in habitats up to 3000 meters above sea level.

Further, they also inhabit forest edges, secondary growth, and plantations. These areas are utilized by the birds for feeding and nesting purposes.

Black Lories require large, mature trees with cavities for nesting. Due to habitat loss, these birds are at risk as they depend on primary forests which are being destroyed at an alarming rate.

Movements and Migration

The Black Lory is considered a non-migratory species, with little information available on their movements beyond their basic habitat requirements. They are known to move locally to find food resources, breeding sites, and nesting areas, but do not typically undertake large-scale migrations.

In the wild, Black Lories can be found in pairs or small groups of up to five individuals. During the breeding season, Black Lories have been observed showing territorial behavior where they stay within a particular area to protect their nesting site.

In captive populations, Black Lories have been seen exhibiting a diverse range of behaviors, including learning how to forage, nest, and breed more effectively. This behavior can be attributed to their natural curiosity and adaptability.

The captive populations range from zoos, aviculture, or found in private collections. Recently, there have been cases of Black Lories being introduced to other islands in the West Papua region.

These species have been seen thriving in their new environments, suggesting that they may have the capacity to adapt quickly to new habitats. Birds that are bred in captivity can be trained to be comfortable around humans.

This can be a significant advantage for their survival as they may be less fearful and therefore more likely to survive if they were to be released into the wild. Black Lories are not known to undertake any significant migratory movements in response to changes in seasonal availability of food and resources.

As primarily forest-dwelling birds, they remain in their habitats, and their movements reflect only the dispersal, territoriality and breeding practices of the species.


The Black Lory is a non-migratory bird species that is found in a variety of forested habitats in New Guinea. Their habitat requirements, particularly the need for large trees and nesting cavities, mean that they are at risk from habitat destruction and fragmentation.

Additionally, their conservation status is threatened due to the bird trade, which has led to significant population declines. While there is little information available on their movements beyond their primary habitat, Black Lories have shown an ability to adapt to new and different environments, particularly in captive populations.

With continued research, conservation efforts, and education, we can work towards securing a stable and sustainable future for these incredible bird species.

Diet and Foraging


Black Lories are primarily nectarivorous birds, with their diets consisting mainly of nectar, pollen, and fruits. However, they are known to feed on insects and their larvae, particularly during the breeding season when protein is required for egg-laying and chick-rearing.

In the wild, these birds feed on the nectar of many types of tree flowers, including those of Eucalyptus, Calliandra, and Macadamia. They obtain nectar by inserting their long, slender tongue deep into the flower, extracting the nectar via capillary action.

In captive populations, Black Lories are frequently provided a diet of fruits, vegetables, and artificial nectar.


Black Lories are among the highest metabolic avian species, with a body temperature that is approximately 2 above that of most other birds. This high metabolic rate means that they have a large appetite and require a diet that provides a lot of energy.

To regulate their body temperature, Black Lories will often pant or spread their wings, particularly in hot weather. While they do not have the same capacity for sweating as mammals, they can release heat through their legs and feet.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Black Lories are capable of consuming large quantities of nectar in a short period due to their high metabolic rates. They need to consume nectar at a high rate because nectar diets are relatively low in carbohydrates.

This high metabolic rate allows them to digest their food quickly and convert the sugars to energy rapidly. This means that their digestive system has a quick turnover rate, and their metabolic rate is hyperactive.

Black Lories maintain selective temperature neutrality, which refers to maintaining their body temperature within the optimal range for maximum physiological performance. They can actively regulate their body temperature, allowing them to maintain activity levels in the face of extreme temperature fluctuations within their environment.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Black Lory is a highly vocal bird species, capable of a wide range of sounds and vocalizations. They make contact calls to keep in touch with family members and other lories.

They also engage in vocalizations during courtship and aggression displays. When excited or upset, they make a loud, raucous call.

Black Lories have a distinctive assortment of shrieks, trills, cackles, and other sounds. The variation in their vocalizations range varies between different contexts and individuals.

Additionally, they may imitate the sounds of other birds or animals in the wild. Furthermore, Black Lories have a much larger repertoire of sounds and are effective innovators compared to their close relatives.

Within the captive population, Black Lories can be taught to mimic sounds and words through training. The ability to mimic languages has made them famous worldwide and increases the demand for them in the pet trade.


Black Lories have a unique and varied diet, which is essential for their high metabolic rates. They remain active in the face of extreme environmental temperatures, regulating their body temperature through panting, spreading their wings and cooling through their feet.

These remarkable adaptations enable them to survive, thrive, and stay hyperactive, making their bodies and metabolisms unique among bird species. Their vocalizations are complex, displayed within different contexts, and used for communication.

From contact calls to cackles, Black Lories display a wide range of vocalizations in comparison to other species. The ability to learn and mimic different sounds provides them with an advantage in the pet trade.

With continued research, we can gain a deeper understanding of their vocal behavior, diet, and metabolism, and aid in efforts to conserve these bird species.



Black Lories are agile and highly active birds that move about their habitats with speed and precision. They are capable of acrobatic flight, hovering, and quick directional changes, making them nimble in pursuit of their primary food sources.

They are also able to walk, climb, and hop on branches, allowing them to feed on fruits and insects.

Self Maintenance

Black Lories, like all birds, spend a considerable amount of time maintaining their plumage by preening. They also bathe frequently to preserve their feather condition.

In the wild, they will use body language to indicate their willingness to be groomed by other individuals within their social group. Preening and grooming are important behaviors that help maintain the feathers in optimal condition and eliminate any parasites or parasites within the plumage.

Agonistic Behavior

Black Lories are territorial birds, and they will defend their feeding and nesting sites against other individuals. Aggressive displays commonly occur when an intruder encroaches on their feeding areas.

Displays of dominance are essential in preventing confrontations among conspecifics.

Sexual Behavior

During the breeding season, Black Lories engage in courtship displays, which include nuzzling, bill rubbing, and mutual preening. These actions are used to attract a mate and establish a bond for breeding.

Males use vocalizations, dance-like movements, and plumage displays to attract females.


Black Lories do not breed until they are approximately 2-3 years old. During the breeding season, which occurs between November and June, females lay a clutch of 1-2 eggs which are incubated for 23-30 days.

Both parents share the responsibilities of incubating the eggs and raising the young. The chicks fledge after 50-55 days and are dependent on their parents for several weeks thereafter.

Demography and Populations

Black Lories are a significant component of the avian fauna of New Guinea. However, habitat destruction and the bird trade has placed significant pressure on their populations, leading to population declines across much of their range.

Currently, the population trend for Black Lories is decreasing, putting them at risk of extinction if no action is taken. On the bright side, ornithologists have observed that Black Lories have an expansive range and can live in several different environments, thus an opportunity for the development of new populations exists.

Conservation efforts can help in the protection of forests and the prevention of hunting, which can in turn conserve the population of Black Lories. The captive population of Black Lories is quite widespread, and it is believed to be increasing.

Captive populations encourage further biological research into their biology and behavior, which can contribute to the development of strategies for the management of wild populations. The breeding of Black Lories in captivity has proven relatively easy and most enheartening, which can aid in increasing populations size and help conserve these incredible birds.


In conclusion, Black Lories are active, acrobatic birds that can navigate their environment with ease. They live in stable social groups, engaging in displays of dominance and courtship during the breeding season.

Breeding pairs share responsibility for incubating eggs and raising young. Black Lories are threatened by habitat destruction, hunting, and the bird trade, driving significant population declines in recent years.

The captive population of Black Lories provides an opportunity to conduct research and develop conservation strategies for the species. Conservation efforts can offer hope for the Black Lory population across their range, and gain knowledge of their demography and behavior can help in addressing these threats.

In conclusion, this article has provided comprehensive information on the Black Lory, including their identification, plumages, molts, systematics history, movements, diet and foraging, behavior, breeding, demography, and populations. Black Lories are a unique and beautiful bird species that inhabit New Guinea and surrounding areas.

They face significant threats, including habitat destruction, the bird trade, and hunting, leading to population declines and risking extinction. However, conservation efforts, including habitat protection and captive breeding programs, provide hope for this incredible bird species.

By gaining understanding into their biology and behavior, we can better protect and conserve Black Lories and ensure their continued existence for future generations.

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