Australian Parrots

The Pale-headed Rosella

Rosellas are parrots that belong to the genus Platycercus meaning 'flat- or broad-tailed'. Rosellas are found in all Australian states, generally found along the coastal mountains and plains. Many parrot and rosella species have adapted well to civilisation and forage in parks and suburban gardens. Rosellas divide into two groups - those with blue cheek patches such as the Adelaide and green rosellas and those that have pale or white cheek patches such as the pale-headed and eastern rosellas.

The pale-headed rosella is endemic to the eastern seaboard of Australia and can be found from northern Queensland south of Cairns right down the east coast to southern New South Wales.

This species frequents open forest areas, savannah woodlands, and lightly timbered areas which have a grassy understorey. It is also seen in treed agricultural areas and along watercourses. It also frequents parks and gardens.

Pale-headed RosellaCredit:

This is a medium-sized parrot, about 28 to 34cm in length and weighing about 110 grams. The head is pale yellow and it has either white or blue and white cheek patches. The breast is blue and may have a yellowy-white wash. The plumage on the nape and back is black with a broad yellow edging. These feathers become bluish-green on the lower back and upper tail coverts. The feathers under the tail are red and the belly is blue. Apart from a yellow rather than a bright red head, it is very similar to the eastern rosella. The eastern and pale-headed rosellas sometimes hybridise. Although it is a very colourful bird, it camouflages well into native vegetation.

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Hens are somewhat smaller with paler breasts and abdomens. The beak may be smaller too. The adult colour is evident after the second moult. The birds are sexually mature at 12 months old or a little more.

This species is noisy and conspicuous when it is not feeding. It is believed to be sedentary. They feed quietly in shady areas keeping out of full sunlight. They are mainly ground feeders, eating grass seeds. However they do feed in trees and shrubs as well. They eat grubs, fruits, insects, flowers and buds.

The male courts the female by bowing low and calling to her. She will do the same if she is interested and they may then feed each other before mating. They nest in tree hollows, often in dead or living eucalypts. They may also use hollow stumps or posts and often nest close to water. Apart from the naturally occurring dust and wood debris, the nest is not lined. A clutch usually consists of three to five eggs. These are incubated for 22 to 24 days by the female. The male will feed her while she is incubating the eggs and will help feed the chicks when they hatch. If conditions are good, they may have a second clutch in the same season.

As an aviary species, the rosella is easy to breed and is tough and hardy. However they need to be able to get away from the rain and they do not do well in draughty quarters. Rosellas love flying and it is cruel to keep them in a cage too small for them to indulge their love of flight. They will be happier and more content if they can stretch their wings. Rosellas can be aggressive to other birds and pairs of rosellas are best kept in separate aviaries, preferably separated by another aviary or by double netting and a 75mm gap. If the birds are still at loggerheads with each other, a solid partition may be warranted.

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