Red-and-blue lory (Eos histrio)

Also known as: blue-tailed lory, red-and-blue lorikeet
Spanish: Lori de Sangir
GenusEos (1)
SizeAverage head-body length: 31 cm (2)
Weight150 – 185 g (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The red-and-blue lory is a small attractive parrot with a brilliantly coloured plumage, and a bright orange bill. Strikingly vibrant red contrasts with a patch of purple sitting on the crown, and a broad purple-blue line that stretches from the red eye, through the ears, and down the side of the neck. A large, conspicuous blue band runs across the chest, and meets a darkly coloured purple upper back, and a red rump (2) (4). The tail is reddish-purple, while the wing feathers are red with black wing-coverts and black tips (2) (4) (5). The sexes are very similar, but juveniles have a wash of blue on the head and breast, and a more obvious blue crown, while the breast band is less obvious and the thighs are lilac (2).  

Three subspecies of the red-and-blue lory, separated on differed islands, were recognised, but the nominate subspecies, Eos histrio histrio, and E. h. challengeri may now be extinct. They were distinguished from the extant subspecies, E. h. talautensis, by more black on the wing-coverts and flight feathers (4).  

The red-and-blue lory is restricted to the Talaud Islands, off northern Sulawesi, Indonesia. It formerly occurred on Sangihe, Siau and Tagulandang islands, but is believed to have been extirpated during the later 20thcentury. The island of Karakelang is the species’ stronghold, and contains the majority of the population (6).

The red-and-blue lory inhabits forest and forest edges, but can also be observed in coconut, nutmeg and clove plantations, and other open areas with a high proportion of fruit trees. It requires tall trees for nesting (4) (7).

The red-and-blue lory may be seen gathering in large, conspicuous flocks in palm plantations, collectively feeding on the nectar of flowering trees. A strictly arboreal parrot, it is able to use its short, sharply curved beak to move around the tree with great agility, and will also feed on fruit, pollen, and the flightless stages of crickets that dwell amongst the palm leaves. The main breeding period of the red-and-blue lory is between March and May, although the species may have a secondary breeding period between November and December, which coincides with the main fruiting period on the islands (7). In common with most parrots, the red-and-blue lory is probably monogamous, pairing with a single partner throughout its breeding life (8). Usually two eggs are laid in nests that are constructed in holes in large mature trees, around 30 metres above the ground, and incubated for around one month. The young chicks will probably remain in the nest for around eight weeks before fledging (7).   

The red-and-blue lory is primarily threatened by the trapping of wild birds for the pet trade, and the loss of its forest habitat. The attractive plumage of the red-and-blue lory has made it a popular cage bird for over a century and, consequently, wild birds have been intensively trapped to fulfil the demand for international trade. Trapping began as early as the 19thcentury, with most birds being traded within Indonesia and the Philippines. Trapping intensified in the 1990s with an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 birds leaving Karakelang each year (6). Around 3,500 birds were traded between 1992 and 1993, which attracted more trappers, and resulted in the development of modern, more efficient, trapping methods. In 1995, the red-and-blue lory was at last listed under Appendix I of CITES, which prohibited international trade, excluding exceptional circumstances, such as scientific research (3). However, trapping continued in the latter 1990s, with an estimated 80 percent of the illegal trade going to the Philippines (7).  

The loss of natural forest from commercial logging, and land conversion for agriculture, throughout the species historical range has also contributed to a decline in the red-and-blue lory population, and may be attributed as the main factor underlying the species disappearance from some islands (5). The only extensive remaining forest is on Karakelang, but the selective removal of the largest, mature trees limits nesting sites (7) (9).  

The species’ restricted range of around 1,000 square kilometres, and the small number of locations it is found in, estimated at two to five, means the red-and-blue lory is vulnerable to the effects of disease (5). Indeed, disease transmission from non-native, introduced species has been identified as a further threat to the population. A large decline in 1965 on Karakelang has been attributed to an outbreak of Newcastle disease, which probably spread from domestic poultry to captive lories, which escaped and transmitted the disease to wild birds. The impacts of the disease were compounded by the effects of anti-locust biocides that were sprayed in coconut plantations, which killed birds a few days after application, and consequently, the population has never recovered (7).

Karakelang is believed to contain the only remaining viable population of the red-and-blue lory, and consequently, efforts are underway to reduce trade on the island (7) (10). The Action Sampiri project is working to improve awareness amongst local communities about the global importance of the island to the species, and to improve future land use. Investigations by the wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, and the inclusion of the species on the Indonesian list of protected species, also highlights the species’ plight and the urgent need for the application of conservation measures (7). A substantial part of the red-and-blue lory’s range is within the Karakelang Wildlife Sanctuary, although there is believed to be no management plan for this protected area, and the level of law enforcement varies. The red-and-blue lory will also benefit from numerous proposed conservation measures, including the monitoring of population trends and trapping levels, the strict enforcement of trade legislation, provision of training and resources to park management staff, and the continuation of community awareness programmes (6).

For more information on the red-and-blue lory, see:

For more information on the conservation of the Talaud Islands, see:

Authenticated (21/05/10) by Like Wijaya, Managing Director, Papua Expeditions/cv.Ekonexion, Indonesia.

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2010)
  2. The World Parrot Trust (January, 2010)
  3. CITES (January, 2010)
  4. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  5. BirdLife International. (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  6. BirdLife International (January, 2010)
  7. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: The Birdlife International Red Data Book. Birdlife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  8. Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  9. BirdLife International EBA Factsheet (January, 2010)
  10. Riley, J. (2003) Population sizes and the conservation status of endemic and restricted-range bird species on Karakelang, Talaud Islands, Indonesia. Bird Conservation International, 13: 59-74.