The Pale-headed or Blue-cheeked Rosellas (Platycercus adscitus) is a colorful, moderate-sized parrot that is native to Australia. These striking rosellas are popular in aviculture and as pets.
Distribution / Range … Subspecies: Ranges and IDs
Breeding (in the wild and aviculture)
The Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) is a colorful, moderate-sized parrot that is native to Australia. In 1877, they were introduced to Hawaii, USA, but have since died out (by the late 1920s).
These striking rosellas are popular in aviculture and as pets.
The Pale-headed Rosella is also sometimes referred to as Mealy Rosella, Moreton Bay Rosella and Blue Rosella. The northern, nominate race is also known as Blue-cheeked Rosella, named for the blue feathers on its cheeks; however, it is not part of the Blue-cheeked Rosella group.
Alternate (Global) Names
Chinese: ?????? … Czech: Rosela žlutohlavá … Danish: Blå Rosella … Dutch: Bleekkoprosella … German: Blasskopfrosella … Estonian: sini-rosellapapagoi … Finnish: vaalearosella, Valjurosella … French: Perruche à tête ple, Perruche palliceps … Italian: Rosella pallida, Rosella testachiara … Japanese: hooakasamekusainko, hooaosamekusainko … Norwegian: Blåkinnet rosella, Blårosella … Polish: rozella blada … Russian: ????????????? ??????? … Slovak: rozela šafranová … Spanish: Perico Pálido, Rosela de Cabeza Pálida … Swedish: Vitkindad rosella
The Pale-headed Rosella forms a *superspecies with the Northern Rosella (Platycercus venustus) found in the northern regions of the Northern Territory (second northernmost point in Australia) and the Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) found in southeastern Australia. (*Superspecies are closely related species with non-overlapping distributions; they are thought to have evolved from the same species).
All three are sometimes considered conspecific (one and the same species).
Two subspecies recognized.
- Blue cheeked Rosella (Platycercus adscitus adscitus – Latham, 1790) – Nominate Race
- Range: The more northerly race occurs from Cape York Peninsula (in Far North Queensland – the most northern part of Australia) south to northeastern New South Wales.
- ID: The plumage show very little of the yellow wash that can be seen on the subspecies.
- Pale headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus palliceps – Lear, 1832)
- Range: South-eastern Queensland – south of the town of Innisfail – south to northern New South Wales (eastern Australia) to the vicinity of the Clarence River.
- ID: Slightly larger in size. Plumage is much more yellow than that of the nominate race.
The nominate race and the subspecies have been recorded to hybridize (interbreed) in areas where their ranges overlap – in northeastern New South Wales and southeastern Queensland.
The Pale-headed Rosellas occur naturally along the northeastern and eastern seaboard of Australia, from Cape York throughout most of eastern Queensland to Southern New South Wales. They are mostly absent from the more arid (drier) interior regions. They are considered to be “resident” (non-migratory) and its population is reported to be abundant throughout much of its range (del Hoyo et al. 1997).
They mostly occur in open, savanna woodland and dry forest dominated by Eucalyptus and Callitris, Casuarina, Acacia and Melaleuca trees; often along water courses. However, they have adapted well to human-modified habitats, such as gardens, parks and farmland. They often visit local bird feeders, or feed in fruit and nut orchards and on agricultural lands.
This medium-sized parrot averages 28 – 34 cm (11 – 13 inches) in length (average: 12 inches / 31 cm). They weigh between 3.3 – 5.3 oz (95 – 150 g) – average: 4 oz / 110 g.
The head and throat is mostly whitish / pale-yellow, with exception of the nominate race which may have bluish cheeks. The chest and abdomen are blue to deep blue with a yellowish-white tinge. The feathers on the chest and belly have a fine dark edging. The back of the neck and back feathers are black with yellow edging. The lower back and upper tail feathers (coverts) are bluish-green. The black shoulder feathers are edged greenish-blue and yellow. There is a white wing-stripe on the underside of the wings (off-white in the female).
Males and females look mostly alike; except the males tend to be slightly larger, and the females often have a paler underside and her bill is somewhat smaller.
Sexing young birds can prove difficult and DNA sexing may be the only way to know their gender for sure at a young age. However, birds at least 9 months or older could possibly be visually sexed, as they start molting into their adult plumage.
Young birds resemble adults, except for a duller plumage. The back of the head and neck (nape) often have a few scattered red feathers. The underwing stripe is paler in the juvenile. Young birds attain the adult coloration when they are 12 to 16 months old (after their second molt).
The Pale-headed Rosella is similar to the closely related Eastern Rosella, which can be easily be identified by the bright red head and upper chest, compared to the pale yellow head of the Pale-headed Rosella. Their calls are similar. The two species are known to hybridize in areas where their ranges overlap – leading to offspring with blended characteristics.
Pale-headed 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 generally not known for much talking ability but they can mimic whistles and songs. This being said, some gifted birds learned to talk, such as 2-year old “Buddy” (featured above and below). He says “come here,” “what you doing,” and “oh no”. He also barks like a dog, rings like a cell phone, and laughs like his owner’s husband.
Buddy likes to ride on his owner’s shoulder, plays with the dogs, and loves to roll in the blankets on the bed.
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), flowers, various fruits, including the fruits (and potentially foliage) of the River Red-gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), River Sheoak (Casuarina cunninghamiana), melaleucas trees and Rough Cockleburr (Xanthium strumarium). They also feed on the flowers of the introduced Scotch Thistle (Onopordum acanthium). Their diet also includes a variety of berries 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.
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 Pale-headed 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.
- 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.
Pale-headed 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.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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