Rosella with strange colouration

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bird0's picture
Rosella with strange colouration

Apologies for the formatting - I'm new to this site. I recently sighted this bird in Brisbane (sorry about the quality, this was taken in very poor lighting). I'm certain that this is a pale-headed rosella, judging by its general colouration and the other birds with it, but the dark head has me absolutely confused. I've already taken this to a forum on another site and had a variety of explanations suggested - colour mutation, hybrid with an Eastern or a Northern, escaped pet, etc. I was hoping that someone knowlegeable here would be able to tell me which one of those options it's likely to be. Thanks in advance for your help!

Devster's picture

Sorry Bird0 I don't know much about mutations or cross breeds. ABID is your best bet if you haven't already put it on there. Not just an immature bird?
Geoff Buttsworth's picture

I am a new member but my wife and I have had a long time interest in the birds we see in my local area. We live in a rural environment on the Darling Downs and see all the breeds you would expect in this area.

On Saturday, my wife stumbled across a tired (and injured, we thought at the time) immature rosella in some long grass on our property. We put it in a cage we have for injured birds, made it safe and gave it water. It recovered quickly and the next morning we released it.

I mention this here because in our online search for the breed we encountered this thread which answered some of our questions, but raised others. As you can see from the photos I've included, it had the colourings of a pale headed rosella (we see these frequently), but it had a red head. From our research, it appears that this red crown is not common.

We are certain that its parents are pale headed rosellas because at dusk, and early the next morning two of them responded to the immature bird's calls; one even sitting on the cage and possibly feeding it (?). When we placed it in a nearby tree that morning, it sat quietly for about 10 minutes, before calling softly. The two adult birds were nearby and responded. Then all three of them flew to a small group of gums about 200 metres away.

I post this info and the photos in case they are helpful. I will add to this thread if we catch sight of the 'red headed' pale headed rosella again. I would be interested in any comments from other members.

sue818's picture

I don't know a lot about the variations but here goes.

Juvenile Pale Rosellas can have flecks of red on their crown but not this much. It looks to be to be a hybrid of Pale-headed Rosella x Eastern Rosella to have such a red head. In other species, a young bird will be fed by adult bird despite not being their offspring... a response to the call perhaps. I don't know if it is possible to have amixed clutch from different matings.

Not sure if that is of help but looks like a pretty little bird and good on you for the rescue.

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Welcome to the forum - and thanks for posting such an interesting photo. My copy of Australian Bird Guide (Revised 2019) shows in the Pale-headed Rosella entry a very similar bird with red head, being hybrid of Eastern Rosella and ssp. palliceps of the Pale-headed Rosella, and has a note saying palliceps hybridises with Eastern Rosella along the s & se edges of its distribution - pretty much where you are. So I reckon thats what you had there - the parents were likely hybrids too, perhaps with somewhat different colouring.
Geoff Buttsworth's picture

Thank you both for your helpful answers. I will be sure to keep an eye out for our red headed friend and post updates if applicable.
Geoff Buttsworth's picture

A quick update. I believe that our hybrid Rosella returned today. We have been seeing 'normal' Pale-headed Rosellas around over the past months, but today a red-headed one was in a nearby gum.

A little hard to be sure that it was the one we cared for, but here's a quick photo for the record.

dwatsonbb's picture

Thanks for the update, nice photo of a gorgeous bird.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818's picture

Great shot. It does seem to be a hybrid and thanks for the update.

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