ROSELLAS; AN AUSTRALIA VIEWPOINT: Aviculture of the Yellow Rosella



This beautiful rosella is also known as the Yellow-rumped Parrot, Murray Rosella, and River Rosella. I believe the Yellow Rosella is a clinal sequence of the


Adelaide Rosella Platycercus elegans adelaidae race and, therefore, a subspecies of the Crimson Rosella P. e. elegans which was featured in Watchbird (May/June 1998, pp.46-48).


Description Adult Mak

The adult male is approximately 14 inches in length. The head is bright pale yellow, frontal band orange-red, this being more defined than with P. e. adelaidae. Hindneck, mantle, scapulars and back are black, each feather edged with yellowish-buff; cheek patches violet blue; breast bright yellow with occasionally the upper breast being tinged with orange; rump and upper tail-coverts are a darker shade of yellow than the underparts; median wing-coverts are black; bend of wing and outer secondaries pale blue; primaries black washed with blue on outer webs. Central tail feathers are blue heavily tinged with green, remainder being blackish-brown with blue on the outer webs. The bill is grayish-horn and the iris dark brown.



Compared with the adult male the coloration of the adult female, both above and below, is somewhat duller; the head is smaller and the upper mandible is narrower.


The general color of immatures, both above and below, is dull olive green, the dark markings of the adult usually being almost absent. The frontal band is a duller shade of orange-red; cheek patches blue; breast and abdomen yellowish-green. An interesting (naturally occurring) characteristic of this subspecies is, that in common with the North Queensland race of the Crimson Rosella P. e. nigrescens, some of the young birds when they fledge are a duller version of their parents. This contrasts to the predominantly green birds (i.e. fledglings) of the other races.


Although Australians know this subspecies as the Yellow Rosella it could well be termed the River Rosella because it shows a distinct preference for larger trees (in particular the River Red Gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis) skirting the extensive river systems in parts of inland Southeastern Australia. These rivers cover many hundreds of miles and include the Murray Darling System, the Lachlan as far as Booligal, the Murrumbidgee to the GundagaiYass area and the Murray to at least Albury and thence to tributaries to the south and northwards to about Tumut. In the eastern extremities of its range the Yellow Rosella does, to some degree, come in contact with the nominate race - the Crimson Rosella P. e. elegans - and interbreeding occurs. The Yellow Rosella travels southwards along the Murray River to around Mannum in South Australia where it "mingles" with the Adelaide Rosella P. e. adelaidae and a transitional form occurs. Evidence of this color variation "shows up" in many individuals up to, but diminishing, all the way to the South Australian, New South Wales, and Victorian border junction, and from there upstream along the Murray and its tributaries. Very little red on the


body can be noted but most, if not all, birds do retain the red frontal band on the forehead.


As Yellow Rosellas prefer rivers, their tributaries and lake-side vegetation, the River Red Gums E. camaldulensis play an important part in their lifestyle. The flowers and seeds supply a great deal of their dietary needs and the River Red Gums are a perfect host for roosting during the day and night. In addition, they are one eucalypt that supplies a variety of hollows for nesting purposes. Other vegetation of note that provides shade, shelter, and food are the box trees: Black Box E. largiflorens, Yell ow Box E. melliodora, Grey Box E. microcarpa and Red Box E. polyanthemos. The Gum-barked Coolibah E. intertexta is another source of food and shelter and, although its fruit is small, it is readily taken. The latter tree is plentiful along the Darling River and the Menindee Lake system of New South Wales.

When travelling through these areas by vehicle it is not unusual to flush the Yellow Rosella from roadside vegetation during early morning or mid to late afternoon.




Condon, H. T. Checklist of the Birds of Australia:

Part 1 Non-Passerines. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, Melbourne, Australia: 1975.

Costerman, L. Native Trees and Shrubs of South-Eastern Australia. Rigby, Adelaide, Australia: 1983.

Hutchins, B. R. & Lovell, R. H. Australian Parrots: A Field and Aviary Study, Avicultural Society of Australia, Melbourne, Australia: 1985.