Breeding of the Northern Rosella. PART I

December 4th, 2015 | by Jim van Reyk
Breeding of the Northern Rosella. PART I
Breeding
2

Read also the first part of this article:

Breeding of the Northern Rosella. PART II

a

Platycercus venustus venustus, the Northern Rosella is certainly among the more rare of the Rosellas (and natives in general), that are kept in captivity in Australian or worldwide aviculture. In keeping with their rarity, the Northern commands quite a handsome price when available, but are certainly well worth the wait and expense, as they are a delightfully quiet and engaging species. The species is also known as the Brown’s Parakeet (Rosella) or Smutty Rosella.

The origin of Brown’s Parakeet is a bit of a mystery, perhaps named after Maitland Brown, one of the early “explorers” of the Kimberly region. Smutty Rosella is more obvious and refers to the smudged black soot like markings to the chest and the mantle as well.

There are arguably (some agree and some do not), two sub-species, the nominate P. v. venustus which is native to the Northern Territory, and the P. v. hilli, of the West Australian region close to the NT border. The Northern Rosella is only marginally larger than the Western Rosella at an approximate length of 28cm (about 11ins) so they are quite petite compared to the Rosellas of Eastern and Southern Australia.

a

jim13

(c) Lubomir Tomiska

a

Range

The Northern Rosella has a fairly extensive range across the Top End of the continent, with the eastern extremity of their range being about the Qld/NT border (the bottom of the Gulf and perhaps into far North West Qld), through to the western Kimberly region. The “crossover” between the two sub-species is commonly recorded as being the Victoria River region of north-western NT.

The West Oz birds northern extremities is restricted to the Kimberly coastline but the NT birds can be found on the Tiwi Islands (Bathurst, Melville and some of the smaller ones in the group) to the north-east of Darwin. I have also seen an advertisement or two for a “genuine Groote Eylandt” Northern Rosella but I am a bit sceptical that there would be any specific variation to a species from that location.

Perhaps a population of the NT sub-species has developed over there, blown over by some Cyclonic weather. That would not be stretching the bounds of reality too much as we often have birds that are native to areas far north of our region (the Dry Tropics), turning up in reasonable numbers after those types of weather events. Whilst the fruit eaters (native doves/pigeons) who turn up invariably die out due to lack of rainforest tucker, I’d imagine seed eaters would survive and thrive given the opportunity.

a

jim6

(c) Lubomir Tomiska

a

Our local Pale-headed Rosellas are probably an example of where the True Blue-cheek Rosellas from the Tablelands region have “migrated” South to the Mt Spec/Paluma just to the north of Townsville and met up and hybridised with the true Pale-headed Rosella. This is probably evidenced in our local “pale-heads” generally having rather prominent blue cheek patches, similar in size to the true Bluey’s.

READ  Breeding of the Goldie's Lorikeet. PART II

 

Are There Two Subspecies of Northern Rosella?

It would appear that the Jury is still out in Identifying two sub-species. Forshaw identifies birds from all regions of WA as hilli, while the West Australian Museum does not recognize the hilli as a sub-specie. Another school of thought is that the hilli has more prominent blue and smaller white cheek patches, commonly has blue tinges to the yellow chest and abdomen, and is a “smaller” bird.

Suffice to say that the birds from the Top End of WA do differ from those in the NT and there is conjecture about birds from the NT/WA border that are different to either type. After much discussion with Bob Philpot, who I consider to be an authority on the Northern’s (and seeing pictures of Bob’s pairs), and having Bob actually view the pairs in my collection, I also tend to use the colouring of the bird as a means of identification for birds from WA and NT origin.

The nominate sub-species (P. v. venustus) from the Northern Territory has a lot less yellow edging to the mantle/back feathers, giving the appearance of extremely dark colouring. The yellow feathers of the chest/abdomen are also more heavily margined with black barring. The white of the cheek patch is generally larger and I have observed that birds in our collection, that have been sourced from NT collections, tend to have sporadic blue margins to the chest, abdomen and back feathers as well. Often, the blue colouring is more pronounced and visible on the males.

a

jim12

(c) Lubomir Tomiska

a

The West Aussies certainly have much more yellow edging to the black feathers of the mantle and back. The yellow chest/abdomen feathers are only faintly margined with black. I have not observed any feint blue markings to any area of yellow colouration on the WA specimens.  Occasionally, birds will also have smudges of red on the head and on the upper chest. Just more variation to the markings and I do not think it is an indication of “another sub-species”. Regarding orange/red on head and chest, many youngsters especially females show this colouring but in the main lose the head colouring at the first moult. Some young will show yellow flecking in the head feathers, in some this remains in adulthood.

I must add though, that there is probably a fair amount of natural “crossover” between the birds in WA and those in the NT where their range overlaps in the wild, and certainly in aviary collections, I would imagine that “cross-breeds” are fairly common. Suffice to say that the birds from the Top End of WA vary from the NT specimens. So, should they be considered as separate sub-species? I’d like to think so if only to “identify” birds from WA and those from NT.

READ  Grey-headed Lovebirds breeding. PART II

 

Our Pairs    

The First pair to take up residence arrived in Feb 2003. They were a pair from a “mate” just up the road, who had had them for a couple of years with no success. From what I recall of that pair they were probably a mixed pair”, and I did have them DNA sexed for my own satisfaction. I persevered with them trying a variety of flights, nest box positions, feeding regimens, however, while they were certainly compatible, there was never any sign of going to nest.

I persevered with them for about two years then got another two birds from WA to try and re-match for better results. The re-bonding took some time but again, I had no success. I sold one of the pairs to another local rosella fancier.

2008 came along and I had only had very limited breeding, two parent reared chicks out of the pair I had kept, so I was on the lookout for a young pair to try and get some better breeding results. A young male arrived first and within four months, I got a young hen, both were DNA sexed.

a

a

I figured that starting young I would have better results than dealing with birds of undetermined age. I should have been a bit more diligent regarding the independence of the birds as I lost the hen within three days of her arriving, her crop was empty and it appeared that she was not quite ready, or maybe she was a bit intimidated by the male, either way, it was another valuable lesson learnt.

About a month later, before I could source another hen, I lost the cock to an unknown cause. Just to keep me interested though, the older pair laid three and hatched two in June of 2009. Since those early mishaps, I have been very fortunate in being able to source, more through good luck, a number of pairs at very reasonable prices.

New pair No. 1 are Territorians and arrived in late 2009. By some detective work we have been able to trace them back to the original owner and they are now approx. 20 years old. Over their life with three other bird-keepers, they regularly double clutched bringing out between three to five parent raised young. They bred the season before I got them but whilst they settled in their new flight, they did not breed season 2010 or 2011, and it was 2012 before I saw the first signs of breeding with the usual tail wagging and begging/offering of food.

READ  Dirk van Abeele is going to publish his most extensive monograph about lovebirds

a

jim2

Here we can see the heavy blue marking to the chest and abdomen of a NT female (c) Jim van Reyk

a

Both the cock and the hen carried out nest inspection, but no eggs resulted. However last year saw the same routine but with four (infertile) eggs being laid. After discussions with Bob P about this pair, I figure that there is no reason why they may not breed again. It does not really matter though, they can live out their time as retirees as they are really pretty birds with the male in particular having a lot of blue smudging to the chest/abdomen. The urge to be parents again must have been triggered off by our cooler than normal winter, because in early Jan 2014, these senior citizens have again been going through the prelude to nesting.

a

jim14

Proud breeder Jim

a

Pairs No. 2 and No. 3 came as a package deal, from a local breeder who was in poor health and wanted to cut back on his birds. One pair appears to be true WA birds (hilli?) and the other is a NT male and WA female. Both pairs had been sourced as juveniles and they were about three years old when we acquired them in Feb 2010. Neither pair had bred but as they were already compatible pairs, they were re-housed in the two outer flights of a three bay, north facing suspended aviary.

The mixed pair went to nest within two months of arriving, laid three eggs and parent reared two young males. In mid Apr 2011 the hen laid four eggs and all four eggs fertile. Four chicks were duly hatched but the last one did not make it past about day five. I DNA sexed and leg rung the chicks at about 10 to 14 days and the pair fledged three young hens. This pair are very early starters, with nest inspection beginning about mid March, which is earlier than is generally the norm in the wild and certainly in captivity.

a

jim1

A Northern Territory Male that is the other half of our best breeding pair (c) Jim van Reyk

a

They are also very secretive, as I have rarely ever noticed the feeding of the hen by the cock during the prelude to mating, the actual mating or any serious nest inspections. The hen just seems to be missing and when I check; she is in the box and has begun laying a clutch of eggs. She only leaves the nest for a feed, so nest inspections have to be timed sometime in the arvo when I see her out for a break. The other pair out of this foursome has only bred once, in early 2012, and they brought out two chicks to fledging. All in all 2013 was a pretty poor year with both the Northern and Blue-cheeked Rosellas with only two Northern’s being raised to fledge and three out of the Blueys.

a

Read also the first part of this article:

Breeding of the Northern Rosella. PART II

A

author: Jim van Reyk

Title photo: (c) Lubomir Tomiska

DON'T MISS

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Breeding of the Northern Rosella. PART II | Parrots Daily News

  2. Craig Wright says:

    Hii. I truely wanted to have A pair of. Northern Rosellas for as long as I can remember. Loved them from the moment I saw 1st one. I have in past had. Crimson and Eastern. But nothin like the love of the northern. I started my collection of birds again after a breakup years ago n now want my northern Rosie’s to be part of it. Hope u can help me. Or at least put me on contact with someone who can. Thank You. Craig Wright

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Parrot News Blog | Parrots Daily News