Crimson Rosella

An attractive bird often kept as a pet, the Crimson Rosella, Platycercus elegans, lives up to its colorful name. Rosella literally means “little rose”. The genus name Platycercus refers to the bird’s flat tail (platy means flat and cercus tail) and elegans describe its appearance nicely. Other names are Pennant’s Parakeet, Red Lowry, and Blue-cheeked Rosella. A subspecies is yellow and hybridizes with the crimson-colored subspecies.

One of 204 species of parrots belonging to the family Psittaculidae, the Old-World Parrots, the Crimson Rosella is characterized by a strong, curved bill, strong legs, and feet with two toes forward and two back, termed zygodactyly. Unlike most birds, parrots can use their feet to manipulate objects. Most members of the family are brightly colored and there little is sexual dimorphism.

The Crimson Rosella is endemic to Australia and Norfolk Islands. Its native habitat is humid and eucalyptus forests, but they have invaded plantations, especially in New Zealand, where, after having been unwisely introduced because of their attractiveness, have become a cause of serious damage to fruit orchards. They easily acclimate to human activity, and it is not uncommon to find them in parks and public gardens. Their diet is based mostly on eucalyptus and acacia seeds but also various herbs, ripe fruits and berries, some species of tree flowers, and a variety of insects. They sometimes feed on the ground but more often in trees and shrubs.

The Crimson Rosella is a noisy, gregarious species, individuals frequently chasing one another. In Australia, adult birds are found in mated pairs but juveniles and subadults will form slightly larger loose flocks of five or six up to 100 birds.

Rosellas are monogamous and tend to stay together for life. A pair will lay 2-4 eggs in the hollow of a tree. The female will do all the incubation and only leave the nest to feed or be fed by the male. The eggs hatch in a month and the young stay with the parents until the next breeding season. Rosellas are unusual among parrots in that they are very sedentary, staying close to their place of hatching all their lives. A study that banded 1741 birds and recovered 176 found all but one near their place of birth and that bird was found only 12 mi (20 km) from its birthplace.