The Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) is native to east and south east Australia (Southern Queensland to Victoria in Australia). This species has also been introduced to New Zealand and Norfolk Island (a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia). Its preferred habitat includes mountain forests and gardens.
They make strikingly beautiful and quiet aviary occupants, and are popular as pets as well.
The Crimson Rosella averages 26 – 36 cm (10.4 – 14 ins) in length (including tail). The wings are typically 164 – 188 mm (6.5 – 7.5 ins) long. The average weight is about 145 grams (~5.2 oz).
Adult male: The plumage is generally red. The cheeks are violet-blue. The nape, back and parts of secondaries (shorter, upper “arm” feathers) are black with a broad red edging. The inner median wing-coverts are black. The bend of the wing, outer median wing-coverts and secondary coverts are blue. The secondary flight feathers (shorter, upper “arm” feathers), outer webs of base of primaries (longest wing feathers) and under wing-coverts (feathers) are blue. The upperside of the middle tail feathers are dark blue with a black base. The outer tail feathers are dark blue with a lighter edging and pale tips. The tail underside is pale bluish. The bill is horn-grey and they have narrow grey eye rigns. The irises are dark brown and the feet are grey.
There is a noticable difference in the Crimsons as the mature male has a much broader head and bigger beak.
The female is on average smaller and has a narrower bill. Her plumage has a greenish tinge to the upperside of the middle tail-feathers.
Sexing young birds can prove difficult and DNA sexing may be the only way to know for sure at a young age. However, it may be possible to sex birds that are at least 9 months as the molt into adult plumage.
Immature birds: The red plumage that can be seen on the adults is olive-green in young birds, except for the forehead, crown, upper cheek area, throat, parts of the upper breast, thighs and under tail-coverts. The inner median wing-coverts and outer secondary-coverts are dull olive-green. The under wing-coverts are dull blue. The upperside of the middle tail-feathers are dark olive-green with blue-black tips. The tail underside is pale grey-blue. The pale under-wing stripe is present. Young birds attain the adult coloration after their second molt – when they are about 12 to 16 months old. At that time they also become sexually mature.
Adults and juveniles show strikingly different coloration in south-eastern populations, with predominantly golden-olive body plumage on the juvenile.
Crimson Rosella Mutations / Sub-species:
The Crimsons have a few mutation color mutation such as Blue, Yellow, Lutino and Silver.
In their natural habitat, they mostly feed on grass and tree seeds (including sprouted seeds that dropped to the floor and were exposed to humidity), as well as a variety of fruits, berries, flowers and nectar.
Additionally, they take insects in their larvae – particularly during the breeding season, when they require more protein in their diet.
They forage in the trees and shrubs, as well as on the ground – usually in shaded areas.
A good Rosella diet should consist of canary seed, a mixture of millets, sunflower and safflower. Most people will use a Cockatiel seed mix with added Canary seed. They also enjoy fresh fruits and veggies such as apples, blackberries, oranges, cucumbers, sweet potato and mango. Kale, boiled egg can also be offered. I find that our Crimson Rosellas tend to appreciate fresh foods while the Golden Mantles will take bits and pieces leaving leftovers.
Sprouted or germinated seeds are usually more easily accepted by “seed addicts” than fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Sprouted seeds are healthier as the sprouting changes and enhances the nutritional quality and value of seeds and grains. Sprouted seeds are lower in fat, as the process of sprouting utilizes the fat in the seed to start the growing process – thus reducing the fat stored in the seeds.
- Sprouted seeds will help balance your bird’s diet by adding a nutritious supply of high in vegetable proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and chlorophyll.
- Soaked and germinated “oil” seeds, like niger and rape seeds, are rich in protein and carbohydrates; while “starch” seeds, such as canary and millets, are rich in carbohydrates, but lower in protein.
- It is an invaluable food at all times; however, it is especially important for breeding or molting birds. Sprouted seeds also serve as a great rearing and weaning food as the softened shell is easier to break by chicks and gets them used to the texture of seeds.
They also enjoy fresh fruits and veggies such as apples, blackberries, oranges, cucumbers, sweet potato and mango. Kale, boiled egg can also be offered.
Reproduction in their natural habitat
In their natural habitat, the breeding season is influenced by rainfall as well as the location of their home range.
Northern birds usually breed between September – January, while those found in the southern areas, mostly breed between February to June.
In the northern parts of the United States, they mostly breed from April through September; in the southern USA, they may breed throughout the year.
The courting male will bow forward low on the perch while sounding out the mating calls. The interested female will do the same. This is usually followed by mutual feeding and then the actual act of mating.
Wild Rosellas usually nest near water, in the cavities of either dead or living trees, usually in eucalypts, or hollow stumps and posts. The nesting cavity is usually over 3 feet (1 m) deep and located up to 100 ft (30 m) above the ground.
The nest floor is usually covered with wood dust. The female alone incubates the eggs while the male feeds her and helps providing food for the young. In the wild, they usually produce 1 – 2 broods a season.
Breeding Rosellas in Captivity / Aviculture
Calls / Vocalizations
Rosellas are often noisy, except when feeding, which is typically done in silence. When roosting in groups, soft chattering or high pitched rapid ‘pi-pi-pi-pi-pi’ contact calls can be heard. Their alarm calls are shrill and screechy. In flight, they make ‘kwik, kwik’ vocalizations.
Rosellas are not known for much talking ability but they can mimic whistles and songs. Though they do not have a true song they do have several melodious calls. Similar to a louder Red Rump, it is much more pleasant than the shrill and harsh sounds of Conures, Cockatoos or Macaws.
Training and Behavioral Guidance:
- Rosellas are known for their loud, screeching voices (although vocalizing less frequently than some other parrot species) and tendency to be heavy chewers. They may become nippy as well, if not well socialized. They are not amongst the best talkers.
- Parrots generally present challenges, such as excessive screaming or chewing – especially at certain stages in their life. They do discover their beaks as method of “disciplining us” once they are out of the “baby stage” and they can generally be somewhat naughty, and it really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has been established. Undisciplined parrots will chew on electric wiring potentially causing house fires. They regard anything in your home as a “toy” that can be explored and chewed on; destroying items that you may hold dear or are simply valuable. Even a young bird that has not been neglected and abused requires proper guidance; this becomes even more challenging when it involves a rescued bird that may require rehabilitation.
- Web Resources: I put together web resources for you to help you understand your pet bird and properly direct him. Please visit the following website to learn more about parrot behavior and training.
Lifespan / Age of Maturity
Rosellas can be expected to live 15 or more years. Females reach reproductive maturity when they are about 18 months old, while males are able to successfully breed when they are 2 – 3 years old.
Alternate (Global) Names
Chinese: ????? … Czech: Rosela Pennantova … Danish: Pennants Rosella … Dutch: Pennantrosella, Pennant-rosella … German: Pennantsittich, Pennant-Sittich … Estonian: puna-rosellapapagoi … Finnish: Punarosella … French: Perruche de Pennant … Italian: Rosella cremisi, Rosella di Pennant … Japanese: akakusainko … Norwegian: Pennantrosella, Rødrosella … Polish: rozella królewska … Russian: ??????? ???????, ????????? ??????? … Slovak: rozela bažantia, Rozela bažantovitá Pennantova … Spanish: Perico Elegante, Rosela Roja … Swedish: Blåkindad rosella
Related Web Resources: Rosellas Information … Index of Rosella Species … Photos of the Different Rosella Species for Identification
Sub-Species / Races Including Nominate: nigrescens, elegans, melanoptera, fleurieuensis
Kangaroo Island Crimson Rosellas: Please scroll up for additional information.
Species: Scientific: Platycercus elegans melanoptera … English: Kangaroo Island Crimson Rosella … Dutch: Kangaroo Island Pennant Rosella … German: Kangaroo Island Pennantsittich … French: Rosella d’ile Kangoeroe
Description: As elegans (photos above), but red edging to back narrower. Female with same distinguishing features as nominate type. Immatures as elegans. … Length: 36 cm (14 ins), wing length 168 – 182 mm (6.5 – 7 ins)
Distribution: Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Northern Crimson Rosellas: Please scroll up for additional information.
Species: Scientific: Platycercus elegans nigrescens … English: Campbell Parakeet, Northern Crimson Rosella … Dutch: Noordelijke Pennant Rosella … German: Nördlicher Pennantsittich, Campbelsittich … French: Rosella de Queensland – Note: the two sub-species, the elegans and nigrescens, are regularly hybridised in aviculture so that there are now very few pure specimens.
Description: As elegans, but red much darker; red edging to back more narrow; smaller. Female with same distinguishing features as nominate type. Immatures virtually same as adults, red plumage being slightly darker; occasionally with some green to shoulder feathers and secondary-coverts; immature seen once with brownish-red feathers. … Length: 34 cm (13.5 ins), wing length 146 – 168 mm (5.5 – 6.5 ins)
Distribution: North-eastern Queensland in Australia