One sixth of the world’s species of parrots are Australian. Rosellas belong to the genus Platycercus and are often referred to as broad-tailed parrots, as the word Platycercus means flat or broad tailed. Rosellas can be found in all Australian States including Tasmania generally along the coastline.
Rosellas are divided into two groups. One group has blue cheek patches and the other group has white or pale cheek patches.
The blue cheek group comprises the Adelaide Rosella, Crimson Rosella, Green Rosella or Tasmanian Rosella, and the Yellow Rosella. The white or pale cheek group is made up of Pale-headed Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Golden-mantled Rosella, Northern Rosella, Pale-headed Rosella, Tasmanian Eastern Rosella, Western Rosella, and Red-backed Western Rosella.
Species and Sub-species
The Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) has 3 sub-species: Adelaide Rosella (P. e. adelaidae), Crimson Rosella (P. e. nigrescens), and the Yellow Rosella (P. e. flaveolus). The Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) has 2 sub-species: Tasmanian Eastern Rosella (P. e. diemensis) and Golden-mantled Rosella (P. e. cecilae). The Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus palliceps) has no other sub-species. The Western Rosella (Platycercus icterotis) has 1 sub-species: Red-backed Western Rosella (P. i. xanthogenys). The Northern Rosella (Platycercus venustus) has 1 sub-species: Northern Rosella (P. e. hilli). The Green Rosella or Tasmanian Rosella (Platycercus caledonicus) has no sub species.
Sexing a Rosella
To avoid the possibility of two birds not being a “true pair”, it is advisable to have new birds surgically or DNA sexed. It may take a season or two for new birds to settle into their new home, so the cost of a veterinarian surgically sexing or DNA testing of each bird can be regarded as an investment rather than an expense. While the bird is getting surgically sexed, the veterinarian can give the bird a thorough health check and answer any questions you may have. A vet check up on each new bird does not replace the quarantine routines, or be a substitute for normal quarantine procedures, that must be maintained to minimize the chances of the introduction or spread of disease pathogens and/or parasites to the existing collection of birds.
The adult Western Rosella is dimorphic and therefore easily sexed. Juvenile Western Rosellas are similar to the adult hen.
Rosellas like to chew on timber, therefore metal frames with strong wire / mesh is advisable. Recommended aviary size is about 1m – 1.2m wide, 5m long and 2.1m high. Rosellas do well with the aviary roof being fully covered with transparent or opaque corrugated roofing material. A concrete floor is recommended. As Rosellas love to bathe, make sure wet spots are allowed to dry and the floor is kept clean.
Rosellas can be housed in an aviary that meets the requirements of most of the other Australian parrots. A typical parrot aviary will suffice. A sheltered/roofed area at the rear of the aviary for the nest log or box. The rest of the fully roofed flight to place the foods, water and aviary furniture (perches etc.). A minimum aviary length of 3m is desirable.
Rosellas can be considered aggressive birds and it is best if they are not housed with other birds. It is also advisable to only keep one pair of Rosellas per aviary. If one is lucky enough to keep more than one pair of Rosellas, it is advisable to keep the pairs separated by at least one aviary flight. If Rosella’s are housed in adjoining aviaries, they will probably be aggressive towards each other and get distracted from the prime purpose of breeding. If it is unavoidable and pairs are housed in adjoining aviaries it will be necessary to have the walls double wired with a separation of about 75mm. Double wiring of the walls minimizes the chances of birds biting the feet of birds in the adjoining aviary. If a pair is distracted by another pair next door and does not settle down in a reasonable time, the more aggressive pair may have to be placed in an aviary with a solid wall between its neighbours.
Don’t forget to plan for additional aviary space for the young birds if you expect the birds to breed. Young Rosellas should be removed from their parents when they are fully independent of their parents. This will minimize the risk of aggression from the parent birds.
Diet and Feeding
In the wild Rosellas will consume a range of foods found at various levels within their habitat. They will feed at ground level on seeds of grasses and herbs. In trees, especially the eucalypts, and shrubs they will eat fruits, berries, leaf and flower buds, nectars and chew on fresh branches. Insects and the insect larvae will be consumed and this food source provides a good source of easily digested protein, especially around breeding season. Berries from some exotic plants such as the hawthorn are a favourite food of many parrots including the Rosellas. Many species of parrots and Rosellas have adapted well to the introduced farmlands, parks, gardens and urban areas within their natural range and will forage there for foods including seeds, grains, berries and fruits.
A basic Rosella seed mix for aviary birds may consist of plain Canary seed, grey striped Sunflower, mix of Millets, and hulled Oats. In addition to a basic seed mix, a wide range of seeds of grasses shrubs and trees, heads of seeding grasses, nuts, berries, a range of fruits and vegetables, and insect larvae can be offered to the birds. Corn-on-the-cob can provide them with a valuable food and a lot of fun and activity. Commercial pellet feeds are becoming available and may be of value as a portion of the diet. They like to have the food utensils elevated about 1 metre above ground. Most Rosellas love to chew on fresh branches and leaves. At breeding time birds can be fed hygienically prepared good quality soaked or sprouted seed. The sprouted seed to include a variety of oilseeds as normally fed in the dry seed mix. Wild Rosellas often obtain food from suburban gardens and parks. Rosellas spend much of their time on the ground feeding.
If the keeper wants to monitor or restrict the amount of oilseeds such as Sunflower or safflower, these seeds can be placed in a separate bowl. If the birds have a preference to eat only the oilseeds, these seeds can be withheld until the required amounts of the other foods have been consumed to maintain a healthy balanced diet.
Rosellas will eat insects such as mealworms. Insects can provide breeding birds with valuable easily digested proteins.
Seed capsules and flowers from native trees such as eucalypts can provide these birds with a valuable natural food source and at the same time give the birds an activity and exercise session. Chewing on seed capsules, branches, leaves and flowers may give captive birds some mental stimulation as well as physical exercise.
Rosellas may benefit from having the food trays/dishes located about one metre above the floor/ground level in an aviary. Rosellas will bathe in the water bowl. A separate smaller bowl of water can be placed above the floor level near the food area and hopefully this bowl will only be used for drinking.
Breeding and Nesting: A Basic Overview
Rosellas should be about 18 – 24 months of age before they are allowed to breed. If the birds, particularly the hens, are allowed to fully mature, the breeding life of hens can be safer and longer than those that are allowed to breed at an early age. Rosellas can lay and successfully raise young up to the age of about 10 years, sometimes longer.
Best breeding results are achieved by pairing up unrelated birds. Buying two young birds from the same place may give you a brother-sister combination.
To avoid the possibility of producing hybrids, only keep one pair of Rosellas per aviary. Make sure to only breed true to one species or to a true sub-species. Keep all species and sub-species pure and avoid breeding from hybrids. Accidental hybrids can be sold to the pet bird trade and removed from the breeding stock. If in doubt about the purity of any available breeder birds, get advice from established reputable breeders or from an established Aviculture club/society or from an accredited avian veterinarian.
All Australian parrots will breed in hollow logs. Therefore all Rosellas can be offered the choice of a hollow log as the preferred nest choice. Rosellas generally choose a log or nest that provides a snug fit. Over-sized nests are usually avoided if smaller nests are available.
Dimensions quoted by various sources for nests or logs are typical or average and can vary widely, influenced by the owner’s preferences and the birds preferences. A parent bird’s preferences can also be influenced by the size and type of nest-box / log in which the bird was hatched and reared. If space allows, offering a choice of sizes and types of logs or nest-boxes, placed in various locations within the aviary, can allow the parent birds to make their own choice. Once a pair has chosen a specific nest-box/log and been successful in it, offer that one to them each breeding season. Try and keep that one for their exclusive use. Once a pair has chosen its log or nest-box, the other ones can generally be removed. If the “spare” box/s are to be removed and moved to another flight, ensure each log / nest box is cleaned to ensure the receptacle has the minimal contamination of mites, parasites and pathogens.
Nesting generally takes place from August to December / January. The Northern Rosella will generally start breeding earlier than the other species of Rosellas. Only the hen incubates the eggs. Rosellas prefer logs or nest boxes that are hung high up in the aviary but care must be taken to ensure the nest does not get too hot, especially when close to the roof. Logs of about 600mm in length and about 170 – 180mm internal diameter should be ideal. Entrance hole to be about 65-70mm. A quantity of suitable nest material has to be placed in the bottom of the nest/log before breeding season starts. Decomposed saw dust closely resembles the naturally occurring material in hollows in the wild. A mix of non-toxic sawdust, peat moss or a mix of these materials can be placed in the nest to a depth of about 100mm deep. This material should be compressed with your hand or another implement to form a rough cup shape. Some birds like to throw out the material you have provided, so check the nest and add some more material as required. If the material is removed and not replaced, the eggs may roll around on a hard flat surface and result in few or no hatchlings.
Standard commercial parrot nest boxes with a base of up to 200mm and about 600mm deep will be suitable. Most nest logs are hung at an angle between 45 degrees to vertical to nearly vertical. Most commercial nest boxes are hung at vertical or near vertical.
The entrance hole of the log or nest should be higher than the nearby perch or perches. The hen seems to feel safer in the nest if the entrance hole to her nest is higher than the nearby roosting or perching facilities. The nest should not be placed at a height that makes it difficult or unsafe to carry out a nest inspection.
Nest access must be easy for the keeper and keep the stress levels of the birds to a minimum, especially if the keeper has to place a ring on a leg of each youngster.
Nest inspections are tolerated by most breeding pairs. Most parrots that allow the keeper to inspect the nest and allow the young to be leg rung, prefer the keeper to follow an established routine. Talk with other successful Rosella breeders in your area to find out the methods they use and adapt their routines or methods to your birds. Birds generally behave better at breeding time if they have a predictable keeper.
Nest boxes that are able to be inspected safely from outside the aviary can be an advantage in cases where the breeding birds are aggressive to the keeper.
Rosellas are generally good breeders and can lay a clutch of up to 8 eggs. All Rosella eggs are white. A typical clutch is 4 to 6 eggs and take about 20 days to hatch. The young leave the nest at about 5 weeks of age. Independence from the parent birds can be about 2 weeks but care must be taken as some young birds may take much longer. If a young bird is removed too early it may fail to thrive or die. If the young are removed from the parent birds after the young are fully independent, a second clutch is often successful.
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