Exotic and unique birds are so commonplace in the suburbs of Hobart that we tend to take them for granted.
Foreign bird-watchers spend thousands of dollars to come to Australia to see our birds and we often do not give them a second glace.
I’m as guilty as everyone else when it comes to being blasé about our birds. That thought occurred to me recently when yellow-tailed black cockatoos called from the eucalypts towering over my home and I couldn’t be bothered to go out to the deck to view them.
Watching footy on the television I felt a pang of guilt, however – after all I am the bird-watch columnist – and finally reached for the binoculars to determine from where they were calling.
By this time the black cockies had moved on, but turning to come back inside the house I caught sight of a pair of green rosellas happily taking a bath in the flooded gutter of a neighbour’s home. This would be my bird-watching moment for the day.
The rosellas had waddled down the roof’s slope to the gutter and were dunking themselves in the clean water which had accumulated there.
Parrot species worldwide are known for their stunning beauty but the green rosellas carry a more subtle hue. The back is generally bottle-green in colour, etched with a darker scalloped pattern, the breast light green or in shades of yellow, the birds growing more yellow with age. There is also a red spot above the beak and, when the rosellas take flight, steel-blue feathers can to seen in the wings, iridescent when the rays of the sun catch them.
The birds drinking and washing in the gutter were the best specimens I had ever seen.
When it comes to bird-watching tourism, green rosellas actually have greater “value” than Tasmania’s biggest parrot, the black cockatoo.
The black cockies can also be found on the mainland but the green rosella is exclusive to Tasmania. It – and the other 12 endemic species – provide a reason for both mainland and international birders to make the trip across Bass Strait.
I was surprised to discover when I first started writing the On the Wing column that many Tasmanians didn’t know we had birds here found nowhere else on earth, among them a parrot. Along with the resident green rosella we also have two migratory parrots, the swift and the orange-bellied. Although the latter two breed here and travel to the mainland in winter, the chances of spotting them are far greater in Tasmania, especially in their breeding grounds in spring and summer.
Growing up in the suburbs of London, and fascinated by birds from an early age, I dreamed of one day seeing parrots flying free in the wild instead of merely viewing them in pet shops or zoos. My favourite out of the Australian parrots was initially the sulphur-crested cockatoo, until I discovered another beautiful parrot, the eastern rosella, on a trip to the Bristol Zoo, which had an extensive parrot collection.
The cockies and eastern rosellas had me spellbound when I first arrived in Tasmania, until I saw my first green rosella. In my parrot studies overseas it was one species I had totally overlooked. What a surprise to discover it literally in my new backyard, and I have never looked back.
When mainland and foreign birders ask me where to find green rosellas, I immediately say the Waterworks Reserve. At any time of the day the harsh two-note “cossick, cossick” call will ring out from the taller trees and it is a simple matter to go in search of them. Failing that, any garden in the Waterworks Valley with fruit trees will reveal them.
I’m fortunate to have green rosellas visiting my garden daily and I often see them when I sit at the computer keyboard in my study, writing the On the Wing columns. That is if they are not taking a bath on the neighbour’s roof after a shower in summer.