There are several species of rosella, all belong to the genus platycercus which refers to the shape of their tails ie. broad or flat, a common feature in all rosellas.
Medium sized parrots averaging about 12 inch in length, give or take a couple of inches either way depending on the subspecies. All are native to Australia and the nearby islands and have distinct cheek patches and a scalloped appearance to the plumage on their backs.
Absent from the barren outback but quite common in coastal areas where they live in suburban gardens and parks, woodlands and forests, and farmland.
Most live together in flocks or small groups out of the breeding season which is when they then pair up and go their own way. Their natural diet consists mainly of seed and fruit.
Their bright colours make them popular pet birds and in captivity can live for over 20 years, please note however that they are usually very aggresive towards other captive birds with which they have to share their home. For this reason it is advisable to keep them in pairs or alone although I have kept golden mantle rosellas in a large aviary with budgies, cockatiels, and kakarikis with no problem. If doing this though you must be sure to have a large aviary so the birds can get away from each other if they need to.
WARNING: don’t ever keep different subspecies of rosella in the same aviary or cage, they will fight to the death so be sure to prevent them from getting at each other if keeping more than one subspecies. The same applies if trying to keep more than two rosellas of the same subspecies together also.
Sometimes called Tasmanian rosella, the green rosella is not actually native to Australia but to Tasmania and Bass Strait islands. This is the biggest of the rosella family averaging about 14.5 inch (37 cm) in length, and is often regarded as the easiest rosella species to keep in captivity.
This subspecies is predominant mainly in the south east of the country but also Tasmania and has three recognised subspecies itself. Mainly occupying light woodland areas, but these birds have also been introduced to New Zealand where feral populations exist in the North Island, Hutt Valley and Dunedin in the south island. The eastern rosella is about 12 inch (30 cm) in length and is a very popular pet where the bright and colourful plumage is a big attraction.
Also called Pennant’s rosella and Occupying mainly forests and gardens in east and south east Australia but also introduced to New Zealand. The crimson rosella has five subspecies, of which three are actually crimson in colour. In the wild they will gather in small groups, pairs of feeding parties outside the breeding season. Found mainly in coastal and mountain forests and woodlands. Popular pet birds that are about 14 inch (36 cm) in length.
Often known as Mealy rosella this species inhabits open woodland areas and is native to north east Australia. The pale-headed has two subspecies and is very closely related to the Eastern rosella. The length is approximately 33 cm (13 inch) long but almost half, about 15 cm (6 inch) of that is the tail. The pale -headed rosella is also sought after by bird keepers and does make a hardy pet which is easy to keep.
Sometimes known as the Stanley rosella this little parrot is native to timbered areas and eucalyptus forests in south west Australia. Usually found in pairs but will form groups of about twenty or so to forage. The western is the smallest rosella averaging about 10 inch (25.5 cm) with two subspecies. As with many rosellas these are often kept as pets or aviary birds where, as is usual with rosellas, their bright colouring is desired.
Watch a short movie featuring Western rosellas in the lead role.
Northern Rosella Platycercus venustus
Also called Smutty rosella or Brown’s parakeet and is native in the north of Australia as it’s name implies, ranging from the Kimberleys and through Arnhem land to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The northern rosella is the second smallest of the common breeds at about 28 cm (11 inch) long. They live singurlarly or in pairs throughout the open savannah country.
Video link for Northern rosella
All the above are available to the bird keeper but the desire for birds with colourful plumage has outstripped demand in many areas so a premium price often accompanies the purchase of a rosella. Don’t expect to pay less than £80 for one unless you’re lucky!