Platycercus elegans elegans Click to enlarge image
An adult Crimson Rosella is pictured perched on a thin tree branch, with several twigs coming up in front of its breast. The camera angle is between a side profile and front-on view, and the bird’s chest appears to be large, giving it a proud expression. The Rosella’s breast feathers are red, as is mostly its face, but with the blue cheeks that are characteristic of this species. A pretty bird, the Rosella’s wing is a mix of light and dark blue feathers, and its long tail feathers are similar, but with black also. Its back has a mix of red and black feathers, with stripes and round shapes. Its beak is a cream colour. Image: G A Hoye
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    elegans
    Genus
    Platycercus
    Family
    Psittacidae
    Order
    Psittaciformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    32 cm to 36 cm

Crimson Rosellas are not only red, but can be yellow or orange. Yellow and red birds produce orange offspring.

Identification

There are several colour forms of the Crimson Rosella. The form it is named for has mostly crimson (red) plumage and bright blue cheeks. The feathers of the back and wing coverts are black broadly edged with red. The flight feathers of the wings have broad blue edges and the tail is blue above and pale blue below and on the outer feathers. Birds from northern Queensland are generally smaller and darker than southern birds. The 'Yellow Rosella' has the crimson areas replaced with light yellow and the tail more greenish. The 'Adelaide Rosella' is intermediate in colour, ranging from yellow with a reddish wash to dark orange. Otherwise, all the forms are similar in pattern. Young Crimson Rosellas have the characteristic blue cheeks, but the remainder of the body plumage is green-olive to yellowish olive (occasionally red in some areas). The young bird gradually attains the adult plumage over a period of 15 months.


Platycercus elegans
Crimson Rosella, juvenile. Image: AD TRoundon
© Australian Museum

Habitat

Throughout its range, the Crimson Rosella is commonly associated with tall eucalypt and wetter forests.

Distribution

There are several populations of the Crimson Rosella. Red (crimson) birds occur in northern Queensland, in southern Queensland to south-eastern South Australia and on Kangaroo Island. Orange birds are restricted to the Flinders Ranges region of South Australia, while yellow ones are found along the Murray, Murrumbidgee and neighbouring rivers (where yellow birds meet red birds they hybridise, producing orange offspring). Red birds have been introduced to Norfolk Island and New Zealand.



Feeding and diet

Crimson Rosellas are normally encountered in small flocks and are easily attracted to garden seed trays. Once familiar with humans, they will accept hand held food. Natural foods include seeds of eucalypts, grasses and shrubs, as well as insects and some tree blossoms.

Communication

The Crimson Rosella has a range of calls, the commonest being a two-syllabled 'cussik-cussik'. It also has a range of harsh screeches and metallic whistles.

Breeding behaviours

The Crimson Rosella's nest is a tree hollow, located high in a tree, and lined with wood shavings and dust. The female alone incubates the white eggs, but both sexes care for the young. The chicks remain dependent on their parents for a further 35 days after leaving the nest.

  • Breeding season: September to January
  • Clutch size: 4 to 8 (usually 5)
  • Incubation: 20 days
  • Time in nest: 35 days

References

  • Crome, F. and Shields, J. 1992. Parrots and Pigeons of Australia. Angus and Robertson/National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
  • Schodde, R. and Tideman, S.C. (eds) 1990. Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (2nd Edition). Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney.