Northern Rosellas, aka Brown’s Rosellas or Smutty Parrots

The Northern Rosella (Platycercus venustus) – also known as Brown’s Parakeet, White-cheeked Rosella or Smutty Rosella – is found in Western, North-western and Northern Australia, and adjacent islands.

Its range include the Gulf of Carpentaria, through Arnhem Land to the Kimberleys in open savannah country. A subspecies, var. hilli, was described by Mathews in 1910, however is not felt to be valid.

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    This Rosella is usually found solitarily or in pairs.


    This unusually colored rosella has a dark crown and white cheeks similar to its relatives the Pale-headed Rosella and the Eastern Rosella.

    At 11 – 11.2 ins or 28 cm long, it is smaller than the Western Rosella. The forehead, crown and nape are black in color with white-on-blue cheek-patches. The back and wing feathers are blackish with yellow borders, while the feathers of the belly, chest and rump are pale yellow with black borders giving rise to a scalloped appearance. The long tail is bluish green. The bill is pale grey and the iris dark.

    Immature plumage is similar to adult but duller. 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.


    Natural Diet

    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.

    Captive Diet

    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.

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      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.

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        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.

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          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 among 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: We 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.

          Other Names

          Chinese: ?????? … Czech: rosela ?ernohlavá, Rosela severoaustralská … Danish: Nordlig Rosella … Dutch: Zwartkoprosella … German: Brown Sittich, Brownsittich, Brown-Sittich, Schwarzkopfsittich … Estonian: mustpea-rosellapapagoi … Finnish: Mustalakkirosella, suomurosella … French: Perruche de Brown, Perruche gracieuse … Italian: Rosella di Brown, Rosella settentrionale … Japanese: zugurosamekusainko … Norwegian: Svarthetterosella … Polish: rozella zóltawa, rozella ?ó?tawa … Russian: ???????????? ??????? … Slovak: rozela ciernohlavá … Spanish: Perico Gracioso, Rosela del Norte … Swedish: Svarthättad rosella

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