Australian Parrots

The Rosella

Rosellas are parrots. Australia can lay claim to one sixth of the world's species of parrots. Rosellas belong to the genus Platycercus meaning 'flat- or broad-tailed'. Rosellas are found in all Australian states and are generally found along the coastal mountains and plains. They frequent forests, farmland and woodlands. There are introduced populations in New Zealand and on Norfolk Island. Many parrot and rosella species have adapted well to civilisation and forage in parks and suburban gardens.

Early settlers first saw the bird at Rose Hill in New South Wales. They called it a Rosehill Parakeet which eventually became 'rosehiller' then 'rosella'.

Crimson RosellaCredit:,_Culburra_Beech.jpg

Rosellas can be divided into those with blue cheek patches such as the Adelaide and Green (Tasmanian) rosella and those with white or pale patches. The Eastern and Pale-headed rosellas are examples of the white or pale group. Rosellas range in size from 26 to 37cm. They have long tails. Sexual dimorphism, in all but a few cases, is slight. As it can take a season or two before pairs will mate, it may be worth having the sex of the birds determined by DNA testing.

Because of their penchant for chewing timber cages, metal frames with strong wire or mesh are recommended for aviaries for these birds. Aviaries need to be about 100cm to 120cm wide by 500cm long and 210cm high. The roof can be fully covered with corrugated roofing material. It won't matter if the roof is transparent or opaque. Rosellas love to bathe and a concrete floor is best. Be sure wet spots are able to dry out and keep the floor clean. In the wild, rosellas bathe in puddles.

Rosellas seem to like a fully covered roof. In any case the rear of the aviary will need to be roofed so that the nest box can be placed under shelter. It is best not to place rosellas with other birds as they can be aggressive. One pair per aviary works best and if you the rear of the aviary is roofed the nest box can be placed under shelter. have two pairs they really need some sort of separation between each aviary.

Eastern RosellaCredit:

If they are housed next to each other, they will be forever bickering with the neighbours instead of getting on with each other and breeding! If the aviaries have to adjoin, place a double layer of wire on the walls with a separation of at least 75mm. This will make it difficult for them to bite each other's feet. If they do not settle down within a reasonable time, it might be necessary to put a solid barrier between the cages.

If you intend to breed your rosellas, you will need extra aviaries. Young birds should be removed as soon as they are fully independent of the parents. Parent birds can become aggressive to the chicks if they remain together for too long.

In a wild state, rosellas feed on a range of food which they seek out at various levels. They spend quite a bit of time on the ground, feeding on grass seeds and herbs. In trees and shrubs, they will eat fruits, berries, buds and nectar. Wild rosellas are quite happy to eat seeds and fruits from bird tables. They are particularly fond of eucalypts. They also like to chew on fresh branches. Around the breeding season the insects and insect larvae that they eat will be particularly valuable as a source of easily digested protein. In an aviary situation, this protein can be provided by offering mealworms.

For aviary birds a basic mix might include canary seed, grey striped sunflower seeds, hulled oats and millet seeds. Nuts, berries, fruit and vegetables can be offered to them. Corn on the cob will provide entertainment as well as food. During the breeding season they will appreciate some soaked and/or sprouted seed.

They will be happiest if food is placed about a metre above the ground. Give them seed capsules, flowers, fresh branches and leaves to chew on. This gives them stimulation and exercise. They often feed by holding their feed in the foot. They scratch their head by passing the foot behind the wing before scratching.

Allow rosellas to be mature fully before letting them breed. Hens in particular will have a longer breeding life if allowed to fully develop before breeding. The age suggested is 18 to 24 months. Pair up unrelated birds if possible and breed true to species. Hybrids accidentally bred can be sold to the bird trade but should not be bred from.

Courtship consists of the male waggling his tail sideways and bobbing his head. The female will then reciprocate. Wild rosellas nest in cavities. They prefer old large trees in areas of forest.

In an aviary, a hollow log is best and it should be a snug fit. If there is room in the aviary, offer several boxes or logs of different sizes. Dimensions of 60cm in length and 17 to 18cm internal diameter are ideal. The entrance hole needs to be about 6.5 to 7cm. Non-toxic sawdust and/or peat moss can be placed in the nest to a depth of about 10cm. Push into a rough cup shape. If the birds throw out your offerings, add more material. Eggs rolling around on a hard flat surface run the risk of not hatching.

Nesting logs should be hung at an angle between 45o to almost vertical. The entrance hole should be higher than the perch outside. Easy access to the nest is important especially if you need to ring the birds. Generally breeding pairs will tolerate nest inspections. Try to develop a routine and keep to it.

Once they've chosen a nest, any others can generally be removed. Keep the nest they like for next season. Clean rejected nests before offering them to another pair. Rosellas lay white eggs and the hen does the incubation.

Typically a clutch of 4 to 6 eggs will be laid and will take about 20 days to hatch. Males feed the females through incubation and for some time after. The chicks quickly become covered in white down. Young birds leave the nest at about 5 weeks. Don't remove young birds too early. Some take much longer than others to become independent. Once the young are removed, a second clutch may be raised.

Rosellas may live upwards of twenty years and are relatively easy to breed.