Black and white birds have featured heavily in my recent posts, so it’s time for a bit of colour. Cue a pair of Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans elegans).
The two of them flew overhead just as I joined up with a Willoughby Birders group for a morning walk in Explosives Reserve. An hour or so afterwards, we came upon them again, high up in a tree. The rosellas watched us for a few minutes before deciding we were harmless and could get on with their brunch. They flew past us to a lower and closer group of shrubs. Here’s the nearer one of the pair:
This nearer bird soon moved away a bit, apparently in response to some distant alarm calls. I couldn’t see the second bird until I moved diagonally closer behind a tree trunk. I watched while it bent forward to pluck a green seed pod:
Using its beak and tongue, it extracted the seed from the pod:
It had the typical look of a feeding rosella –mostly concentrating on the task of seed extraction while monitoring you for movement. Looking carefully at this bird, you can see green patches and a relatively narrow lighter blue stripe in its wings, indicating that it was still quite young:
It fed peacefully for a while, before moving to another bush further away:
The original bird then returned to a nearby bush. This one was fully mature, with no traces of green in its plumage, and a wider blue patch in its wings. It also had a grubby beak. I don’t know whether that was the remains of its last few meals or a sign of ageing!
Shortly afterwards the pair moved away, and the show was over. We went off to look for other birds, I for one feeling pleased at this sighting. Although Crimson Rosellas are widespread in SE Australia and by no means rare within their range, I’ve seen them less frequently around Sydney in the last 20 years. Shifting weather patterns and food availability may have something to do with it.
The next photo gives you a clearer view of the overall colour of a fully mature male (this was a different bird, taken at Hill Top):
Younger Crimson Rosellas have far more green in their feathers, which they gradually lose over two moults. This rather scruffy specimen, taken near Wombeyan Caves, is a typical juvenile with minimal red around its head and throat.
And this one is a first year immature bird, with sleeker feathers than the juvenile, and more red and clear blue in its wing:
This one has still more red colouring:
However, a word of caution. The seemingly younger bird in my original photos could possibly have been a mature female. Unlike the males, they tend to keep some green patches in their wings and tail feathers into maturity.