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Choosing an Eastern Rosella

By: Virginia Wells

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The Eastern rosella, Platycercus eximinius, is also called a golden-mantled rosella or parakeet, a red-headed rosella, or a rosella parakeet. These birds are colorful, resilient and a popular parrot.

The Eastern rosella can be found in pairs or flocks in open forests and grassy woodlands near water throughout eastern and southeastern Australia and Tasmania. These birds are about 12 inches long and are the most colorful of all rosellas. The head and breast is red with white cheek patches. The lower breast is yellow merging into pale green on the abdomen. The vest and under tail coverts are red. Feathers of the back and the wings are black and outlined with greenish-yellow. Under-wing coverts and outer webs of flight feathers are blue. In females, the red on the head and breast is duller and less extensive, and there is a white stripe on the underwing.

Rosellas make excellent pets when they are hand-raised. However, you will need to spend a lot of time with them or they will become wild again. They can be quite devoted to their owners and will travel around on shoulders or arms, although they usually don't like petting and cuddling. They are not noted for their talking ability, but many can learn to say a word or two. Eastern rosellas have a pleasant whistle and can be taught to whistle tunes from beginning to end.

Rosellas exhibit characteristic behavior of their group. These include an undulating flight, strutting by the male, and tail wagging during various displays such as courting, and a high-pitched whistle consisting of sharp notes repeated rapidly in quick succession. If you mimic this call, your Rosella may display and answer you with his own call.

The life span of rosellas in captivity is up to twenty or more years.

Housing

Rosellas require spacious cages because they indulge in frequent wing-flapping. When choosing a cage, keep in mind that width is more beneficial than height. Birds must be able to spread their wings and still have room for their toys. Your rosella's cage should be at least 18 inches by 18 inches by 22 inches high. They also enjoy wood toys to satisfy their chewing instincts.

Easterns rosellas do best in an open flight aviary. These need be no larger than around 5 feet wide by 12 feet long by 6 feet high and lined with a medium grade mesh. Although these birds are hardy, they should be provided with plenty of shelter with part of the roof covered and the back and sides partially covered.

Rosellas are not compatible with other birds and should be housed alone. They can also be aggressive to other rosellas and might be better off housed as pairs separated from others.

Feeding

Rosellas are ground feeders and like to eat seeds, fruit and insects. Pet rosellas enjoy a small seed mix, such as canary and millet seed, in a dish separate from the larger mix of sunflower, safflower and other seeds. They may also enjoy a manufactured, pelleted diet, especially if the bird has been weaned onto this food. Fruit, vegetables, cooked egg and other fresh foods should be offered as well.

Breeding

Eastern rosellas attain sexual maturity at 12 to 15 months of age and breeding normally takes place from August to January. During courtship, the male raises his body to his full height while spreading the tail and ruffling the body feathers. He also droops his wings and bows in an up-down motion, all of which is accompanied by musical chatter. The female responds to this in similar fashion, although she is less animated.

One thing to remember when breeding rosellas is that in the wild they nest inside hollow, moist tree trunks. A moist nesting material such as wood shavings, must be provided when attempting to breed these birds. An ordinary nest box measuring 24 inches by 10 inches with an entrance approximately 3 inches round, about 2 inches from the top works well.

Normal clutch is 4 to 7 white eggs and incubation period is 19 days. The female incubates the eggs, but both parents participate in rearing the young. The young usually fledge at around 35 days after hatching. Fledged chicks remain with the parents until the following breeding season.

Common Diseases and Disorders

The Eastern rosella is a relatively healthy bird but is susceptible to the following:

  • Aspergillosis
  • Bacterial infections
  • Chlamydiosis
  • Psittacosis
  • Intestinal and Proventricular worms
  • Fatty liver syndrome

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