I saw a pair of Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans) last weekend at Hill Top, 115 kms SW of Sydney. I’ve not seen any around North Sydney for quite a few years so I was very pleased to see them.
The pair had flown down to the ground to forage in a shady patch:
As they foraged, they moved further apart until the more distant bird was out of frame. The nearer one hopped over to some grass shoots.
It chose a tempting blade and began to nibble on it.
It then settled on another closer piece of grass.
Both birds flew up into a tree, giving me a chance to catch one of them in the sunlight as it hesitated before jumping to a higher branch:
Before the pair finally departed, one paused to look back at me. Face-on, its handsome blue cheek markings appeared like a pair of mutton-chop whiskers:
These beautiful birds were both fully mature and into at least their third moult. As young birds, they would have looked more like this:
Although the young bird’s body has mostly green or grey-green colouring, the blue cheek-patch and some red colouring of the adult are already present, as well as the blue in the forward flight pinions of the wings. Here’s a close-up of another juvenile, with traces of its last snack still on its beak:
Over the next couple of moults the area of red colouring gradually expands. The lower of this pair of Rosellas at Boorowa is about one moult older than the previous bird (the pair’s dishevelled appearance is caused by strong wind; you can see some sand particles in the upper left quadrant) :
A pair of adults:
And an adult seen closer up:
Time to give the rosellas a rest!
The name ‘Rosella’ derives from Rosehill in SW Sydney which had a large population of the birds —they were originally called ‘Rosehillers’. The Rosella genus of parrots is only found in Australia, with eight separate species under earlier classifications. However the coloration and speciation of Rosellas is not straightforward. Wikipedia lists 6 species and 19 subspecies in three groups. Another view is that there are two superspecies, plus one other species, easily distinguished by the colour of their cheek patches.
Under this scheme, blue cheek patches identify one superspecies, which includes the Crimson Rosella, the Yellow Rosella, the Adelaide Rosella, and Tasmania’s Green Rosella. Apart from the shared blue cheek-patches, the separate subspecies have colouring that varies widely, not only between the different subspecies but also between juveniles and adults. For example, this is an adult male Green Rosella, something of a misnomer as adults are more yellow than green:
The other superspecies of Rosella has white cheek patches, and includes the Eastern Rosella, the Northern Rosella and the Pale-headed Rosella. The separate species is the Western Rosella, which has yellow cheek patches.
Apart from their colour variations, Rosellas look and behave similarly. They are all swift flyers, usually in pairs or small groups, and are generally quiet inoffensive birds. They have similar diets of fruit, seeds, flowers, insect larvae and soft leaves foraged in trees and shrubs and on the ground. They avoid the dryer heart of Australia.
Note: I have posted once before about Crimson Rosellas .