The Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) of the Great Dividing Range and Yellow Rosella of the Murray basin are magical species that may surprise many. Yet they hybridize or intergrade wherever they meet, whether in the Mount Lofty Ranges or along the upper Murray, Murrumbidgee, and Tumut Rivers.


The vibrant color tone-either is in red, orange, or yellow-is in fact the only marked difference between them and it is probably controlled by very few genes. Otherwise, in color pattern, habits, calls, and even liver enzymes, these rosellas are alike. Reduced to tone, the slight differences between them are those usually associated with races or subspecies.


Crimson Rosellas live in and along the edges of tall-timbered eucalypt forests and woodlands, from river red gums along the Murray-Darling Rivers to rainforests on the Atherton Tableland. Only the population in the Mount Lofty Ranges has spread extensively into cleared lands and rural areas, reaching the western belts of the Murray Mallee.
They are gregarious birds, immature usually banding with occasional adults in wandering feeding groups of up to 30 and more out of the breeding season. Adults are less communal and seem more sedentary; although often gathering in groups of five or six, they tend to stay in pairs around their breeding grounds throughout the year. The bands of immature habitually break up at the beginning of breeding as the birds begin to don adult plumage and find mates.
One can see them early morning when they are flying out to drink and feed, clambering among the outer branches of trees and shrubs, progressing slowly on the ground, and, at times, taking dew by pulling sodden leaves through their mandibles. When on the ground in sunlight, they keep to patches of shade.
The Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) of the Great Dividing Range and Yellow Rosella of the Murray basin are magical species that may surprise many.
The Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) of the Great Dividing Range and Yellow Rosella of the Murray basin are magical species that may surprise many. Photo Credit – Pixabay


The seeds of eucalypts are a staple diet, but the birds are catholic in their taste, taking a wide range of grains from weeds, grasses, and shrubs as well, harvesting lerps from leaves, sometimes becoming a local pest in orchards, and even rifling eucalypt blossom for its nectar.
There is no feeding territory, and breeding territory-if it exists-probably does not extend beyond the actual nest site. Essentially seed and fruit-eaters, Crimson Rosellas forage adeptly both on the ground and in the outer foliage of trees. They pick up seeds freely or break them into fruit, holding them firmly in the left foot if they can be held.


Adult Crimson Rosellas are usually seen in pairs or in parties of 5 or 6; while, the immature are commonly gathered in flocks. Through the middle hours of the day, the Crimson Rosella rests quietly in the crowns of trees. However infrequently nibbling or stripping leaves, or socializing in small, softly chattering groups. After another bout of feeding in the late afternoon, they fly up to their roosts.

Crimson RosellaFlight

Flight is undulating: a series of heavy flaps interspersed with swooping glides in which the wings are held onto the sides of the body.


When Crimson Rosella is excited, the male parrots can move into a stiff-winged slow erratic flapping, accompanied by harsh, alarm-type screeching. The pairing seems to be permanent even though adults group in small social gatherings both in and out of breeding, to the accompaniment of much chattering and tail wagging.
In display, on a fairly horizontal branch, the male straightens up, squares his shoulders and droops the wings, fluffs body feathers, and shakes his spread tail from side to side while bowing up and down, chattering musically all the while. The female responds similarly but with less intensity.


Both sexes are similar, but the male bird is a little larger, with a broader head and heavier bill. The female Crimson Rosella is of yellow-plumaged races, including orange of Mount Lofty Ranges population, often redder than male, with flashes of red on the throat, face, and crissum, and with duller greener tone to scalloping on back.
However, the head is an entire rump and whole ventral surface crimson or mid-yellow or of intermediate shades in hybrid populations. Brow red is in yellow plumaged forms and cheeks cobalt-blue. The mantle, upper back, and scapulars are black, broadly edged or scalloped with the color of the body plumage.
Also, the inner wing coverts black, outer and underwing coverts bright blue; flight feathers dusky, grading to a cobalt wash on secondaries. Tail blue-green, all feathers except central pair broadly tipped with pale blue. The eyes are dark brown along with bill bone-colored; cere dark gray. Their feet and toes are dark greys.
The immature parrot is little a dull olive-green, uniformly so on the upper surface, blotched with red on throat and crissum in red-plumaged races, and washed uniformly yellowish on undersurface in yellow-plumaged races.
Brown or fore-crown is dull red. Cheeks are dull blue. However, the flight feathers are dusky blue with a broken bar of off-white on the undersurface visible only in flight. The tail is dusky blue, tipped pale blue in all feathers except the central pair. Adult plumage begins to appear extensively when young are about a year old and is complete at about 1-5 months. Race on Atherton Tableland apparently fledges in virtually all red adult plumage. The downy young bird is a white-downed, buff-billed.

Crimson Rosella Call

There are four main calls of Crimson Rosella
The first call of Crimson Rosella is harsh, shrill sharp 2 or severally repeated screeches, usually given in flight in alarm or excitement: regional variations in pitch are dialectical.
The second Crimson Rosella call is a high-pitched, usually, 2 or 3-note bell-like whistle that, given from a perch, carries far and appears to be a contact call;
The third call is a lower-pitched, softer call of five or so whistled or piping notes used also as a contact call between birds in loose feeding or resting groups;
The fourth call is a rich musical chatter given by birds flocking and displaying in trees.
The first call of Crimson Rosella is harsh, shrill sharp 2 or severally repeated screeches, usually given in flight in alarm or excitement
The first call of Crimson Rosella is harsh, shrill sharp 2 or severally repeated screeches, usually given in flight in alarm or excitement. Photo Credit – Pixabay

Breeding & Nesting

The breeding and nesting season are September-January. The female parrot selects and gets ready for the nesting site, more often than not a hollow in a eucalypt tree (but will sometimes use a nest-box or other non-natural site). The parrot made a hollow nest, usually in a tall living or dead eucalypt 6-20 meters above the ground.
Male and female rosella do not preen one another, but he does feed her in courtship and while she is incubating and brooding young. As a rule, she is called to be fed on a branch outside the nest morning and afternoon. After young are about two weeks old, both parents feed them, ceasing two or three weeks after fledging and abandoning them a month or so later to flocks of juveniles.


Crimson Rosella lays 4 to 8, more often than not five; cream-white colors eggs that are rounded in shape at a size of about 28-30 x 23-34 mm; lay on a bed of wood dust. The incubation period is about 20-21 days, for females. The young bird fledges in about five weeks but remains with its parents for another month or so before disbanding. No more than one brood is usually raised each year.

Range and Distribution

The major distribution area of the Red races: is one small and dark, almost blackish-red in rainforests of northern Queensland tablelands between Cooktown and Townsville. Also, one medium-sized to large and deep to mid-crimson through the hill and mountain eucalypt forests of southeastern Australia, north to Clarke Range, Queensland, and west to the southeast of South Australia.
The one large with reduced crimson scalloping on the back in sclerophyll forests of western Kangaroo Island. Yellow races: Medium-sized with bright yellow rump and broad yellow scalloping on back throughout the river red gum Woodlands of Murray-Murrumbidgee- Lachlan-lower Darling systems, ranges east to about Hume Highway on Murray-Murrumbidgee system and hybridizing there with crimson race and west to about Mannum or Murray River, hybridizing along Marne River with Mt Lofty Ranges race.
The Orange races: one rather uniformly orange-red in sclerophyll forests and woodlands of Fleurieu Peninsula, Mt Lofty Ranges; one rather uniformly orange-yellow in creek-side woodlands of southern Flinders Ranges. Populations throughout the bulk of the Mount Lofty Ranges and around Adelaide north to the Bundaleer hills are intergraded. The southeastern crimson race has been introduced to and established on Norfolk Island.

Crimson Rosella Life Span

If cared for properly, the Crimson Rosella can live up to 25 years. A common bird in aviculture is adored for their good behavior and delightful temperament. They are slim and agile and possess great energy with a lot of surprisingly intelligent and curious.

Talking Ability

Crimson Rosella has the ability to learn and speak few words, but they are not particularly good talkers. Crimson Rosella is not the perfect choice for those bird lovers who have their hearts set on owning a talking bird. But, these parrots are can learn to mimic whistled tunes rather easily.

Alternative Names

This is also known as Yellow Rosella, Adelaide Rosella, and Mountain Lowry.


The size of Crimson Rosella is about 325-360mm (14 inches) including a long attenuate rounded tail.
Related Reading – White-cheeked Rosella or Eastern Rosella
If cared for properly, the Crimson Rosella can live up to 25 years.
If cared for properly, the Crimson Rosella can live up to 25 years. Photo Credit – Nick Athanas


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