The crimson rosella is a colorful medium-sized parrot native to south-eastern Australia — including Tasmania. There are four recognized subspecies: P. elegans elegans, found in eastern Australia, and P. elegans nigrescens, a visually similar but slightly smaller subspecies found in north-eastern Australia. There is also a yellow subspecies, commonly called the “yellow rosella” found in south-eastern Australia along the Murray River. Finally, the Adelaide rosella, P. elegans subadelaidae, which is thought to be a hybrid of the red and yellow subspecies occurring where their ranges overlap.
Housing & Compatibility
Crimson rosellas can be aggressive and should only be housed in single-pair aviaries. They require a good amount of flying space to get the exercise they require, so the aviary should be at least 3-5 metres (10-16 feet) in length.
Crimson rosellas will hybridize with other types of rosellas and other species of Australian parrots, including bluebonnets, hooded parrots, mulga parrots, mallee ringnecks, and red-rumped parrots. To prevent captive bloodlines from becoming polluted, crimson rosellas should only ever be housed with other crimson rosellas. The yellow and red variations should also be kept separate to preserve the distinct subspecies in aviculture.
Rosellas enjoy chewing on wood, so the aviary needs to be constructed out of metal. They tend to create quite a bit of mess, so a concrete aviary floor that can easily be cleaned in preferred. The aviary should be fully roofed to keep water off of the floor. If housed in a bank of aviaries, double wiring between sections is required to prevent fighting and injury.
Non-toxic leafy branches, particularly from eucalyptus trees, should be placed in the aviary to give the rosellas something to chew. This provides them with entertainment and exercises their beak and feet. They will eat seeds and flowers.
Diet & Feeding
A quality small parrot seed mix forms the basis of the rosella’s diet. Seed should be stored in an airtight plastic container to prevent exposure to vermin and moisture. Seed can be soaked or sprouted to improve its nutritional value.
A good diet includes a mix of fruits and vegetables, such as apple, pear and corn. Leafy green vegetables are essential; silverbeet (chard), bok choy, kale and endive are particularly enjoyed.
Many breeders prefer to feed pellets instead of seed. Pellets provide a more balanced intake of vitamins and minerals and produce less waste. Commercial supplements such as egg & biscuit mix can be added to the diet to provide additional protein during the breeding season.
Crimson rosellas will breed from early spring through til summer. Breeding should be discouraged during particularly hot and cold weather.
They breed in hollow logs or nest boxes lined with sawdust or pine shavings. Larger nest boxes—between 1.5 and 2 feet deep—are generally preferred. Most parrots prefer a nest box opening just large enough to squeeze through, so a separate hatch for cleaning and inspection should be added to the nest box. Different nesting receptacles should be offered to determine which the pair prefers to use. Disused boxed should be removed when laying has commenced.
Rosellas generally lay between 4 and 7 eggs. Young or inexperienced birds may lay as few as two, while extremely healthy birds have been known to lay as many as 9 eggs. The hen will incubate the eggs for three weeks. After hatching, the young birds will remain in the nest for five weeks before fledgling. They will be fully independent from their parents approximately three weeks after fledging. They will generally only raise one clutch per year, occasionally two.
Male and female crimson rosellas are visually very similar. Females and slightly less vibrant in their coloration than males.
There are dozens of crimson rosella color mutations available, with varying rarity and value.
Rosellas generally don’t make great pets, even when hand-raised. They demand a great deal of attention, don’t appear to enjoy human contact and are known to occasionally bite. Despite these challenges, their bright colors and moderate talking ability make many people attempt—with varying degrees of success—to domesticate them.
Crimson rosellas naturally feed at ground level, so they will spend a lot of time foraging on the aviary floor. This makes them particularly susceptible to worms and parasites, so a strict parasite control regime is essential.
Healthy birds should live for 20 years or more.