Far away, the Summer Olympics in Rio were in progress but a little closer to home I revelled in my own version of the green and gold.
The silver wattles – closely related to the golden wattle, the Australian floral emblem which inspires our sporting colours – had burst into flower somewhere between the exploits of our swimmers and the start of the athletics program which followed.
And like an Aussie athlete striking gold, I had my own triumphant moment when I caught sight of a green rosella munching on wattle flowers at the end of my garden. The bird was a beauty, in full breeding plumage in readiness for the first day of spring, Mother Nature’s opening ceremony to herald summer, in just a few weeks’ time.
Older male green rosellas display a brighter shade of yellow – dare I say gold – on their breasts and this jaunty, noisy specimen was in the prime of his life. The yellow feathers and the scalloped green and black back, and iridescence dark-blue shoulder patch in the wings, looked a treat nestled within the dark green fern-like leaves of the wattle, which in turn was festooned with fragile spikes of yellow flowers.
Green rosellas are found right across Tasmania and are often seen crossing the skies in small family parties, issuing their familiar and far-carrying “cossick, cossick” call. At about 35 centimetres in length they are obvious on the wing, but when they alight they can remain hidden within not only wattles but other native trees and exotic shrubs in suburban gardens.
They actually have a variety of calls – including a single-note whistle – and when in thick vegetation they can often be heard making a musical chatter, as they climb delicately through thickly-packed branches, stopping briefly to pick at clusters of flowers in spring, or fruit and seeds later in summer and autumn.
The eastern rosella found on the mainland also occurs in Tasmania, but there can be no mistaking the two species. The eastern rosella is noted for its white cheeks and crimson breast. The largely green and yellow plumage of the green rosella also has a splash of red – on the forehead, contrasting with a blue patch on the cheeks.
It’s the yellow that stands out, however; making the green rosella the gold medal species of the Tasmanian bush.
Habitat and distribution: Occurring throughout a wide range of forest types, from the mountains to the coast. Diet: Although its diet consists largely of seeds, it also feeds on fruits, buds and berries, nectar, insects and larvae. It often comes to the ground to feed. Breeding: Four to eight white eggs are laid in the hollow of a trunk or limb of a tree during spring and summer. Song: The signatory “cossick, cossick”. Size: 29-36cm.