Crimson Rosella (Pennant's Rosella)

A juvenile crimson rosella

Jochen Schlenker / Getty Images

Known for its striking beauty, the crimson rosella is a variety of parrot that has been a popular pet species for many years. While its medium size and eye-catching colors make this species appealing to bird lovers of all types, it may not be the best choice as a pet for those who are new to keeping birds; this is a not a parrot that is easily trained or handled. 

Breed Overview

Common Names: Crimson rosella, Pennant's rosella

Scientific Name: Platycercus elegans. There are seven closely related subspecies, categorized mostly by variations in color markings that range from subtle to dramatic: P.e. elegans, P.e. nigrescens, P.e. melanopterus, P.e. fleurieuensis, P.e. subadelaidae, P.e. flaveolus; and P.e. fleurieuensis x P.e. subadelaidae x P.e. flaveolus

Adult Size: Crimson rosellas are medium-sized birds, measuring about 10 to 14 inches. They have a rather slender body structure, vaguely reminiscent of the Asiatic parakeets.

Life Expectancy: On average, 20 to 30 years

Origin and History

The crimson rosella is a medium-sized parrot that is native to eastern and southeastern Australia, where it lives in open forests and woodlands, as well as gardens and parklands. In the wild, it eats mostly native grass seeds, herbs, fruits, and flower buds.

The species was originally named Psitticus pennanti by John Latham in 1781 but was eventually reclassified. 


Known to be less frequently vocal than many other hookbill species, crimson rosellas still have very loud, raucous calls that they will display from time to time. The normal vocalization is a high-pitched whistle that can get quite shrill when the bird is alarmed. 

Owners of crimson rosellas have noted that these birds do need to be worked with and handled every day in order to remain tame and friendly to their human family members. It has also been reported that some crimson rosellas may go through a nippy bluffing phase during adolescence, which owners must find a way to work through. Overall, however, these are sweet albeit mischievous little birds. Because of their high intelligence and curious nature, they must be under constant supervision when out of their cages to prevent them from getting into trouble.

Crimson Rosella Colors and Markings

Crimson rosellas are a dimorphic species. Male birds are mostly a vivid red with patches of bright blue on their faces and wings with black feathers highlighting the feathers on their backs. They have long blue tail feathers. Females of the species look essentially the same, although they sport a dark greenish patch above the middle of their tail feathers.

The various related subspecies show different patterns of color and, in some instances, entirely different hues. Platycercus elegans flaveolus, for example, is a yellow bird. Other subspecies, though, can rightly be called crimson, but with variations in shading and pattern. 

Caring for Crimson Rosellas

Crimson rosellas are not the same kind of cuddly, human-friendly birds as some other parrots. This bird may willingly perch on a shoulder, but it may not tolerate petting. If very tame, a rosella is a fine bird for a careful child, but be wary because there is a chance of biting. 

While these are true parrots that have the ability to learn to speak a few words, crimson rosellas are not noted as especially good talkers, so they are not a good choice for those who have their hearts set on owning a talking bird. They can, however, learn to mimic whistled tunes rather easily.

Rosellas have been known to become rather nippy with their owners if they are not properly socialized. This means that anyone who wants a tame, friendly rosella must take time out to handle and play with the bird each and every day. Otherwise, you could end up with a grumpy bird and sore fingertips to boot. Practicing bonding techniques is important to keeping a rosella comfortable with being part of a human family.

Feeding the Crimson Rosella

In the wild, crimson rosellas dine on insect larvae, grass and grass seed, berries, fruits, nuts, and blossoms. In captivity, it is important to provide them with a varied and nutritious diet similar to what they would eat in the wild. Most rosella owners provide their birds with a good quality seed mix formulated for canaries and cockatiels and then supplement that with plenty of fresh, bird-safe fruits and vegetables. Many rosellas also enjoy bits of boiled egg with their meals, which helps replace the protein lost by not hunting insects in the wild.


A cage of medium size is fine for most birds, as they are relatively sedentary. However, young, untamed birds may benefit from a larger cage that allows them space to fly. Rosellas can make great aviary birds, and are often housed in outdoor aviaries.

Rosellas are notorious chewers who quickly grow bored with their playthings, so it is important to keep your bird entertained with plenty of safe and interesting toys for them to play with. If you don't, chances are that you'll find some of your own belongings will come up missing—rosellas are infinitely curious little birds, and many have been known to steal jewelry, keys, buttons, and other items from their owners.

Common Health Issues

Crimson rosellas can be prone to fungal infections and intestinal worms, especially when housed in outdoor aviaries where they may forage at ground level. Rosellas are also susceptible to psittacosis.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If you are interested in similar pet birds, also consider: 

If you think you've got what it takes to keep one of these beautiful birds, contact a local crimson rosella breeder and see if you can meet with them and their pets to see first-hand how these birds interact in a home environment.