Historical information

This specimen is part of a collection of almost 200 animal specimens that were originally acquired as skins from various institutions across Australia, including the Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Museum of Victoria (known as Museums Victoria since 1983), as well as individuals such as amateur anthropologist Reynell Eveleigh Johns between 1860-1880. These skins were then mounted by members of the Burke Museum Committee and put-on display in the formal space of the Museum’s original exhibition hall where they continue to be on display. This display of taxidermy mounts initially served to instruct visitors to the Burke Museum of the natural world around them, today it serves as an insight into the collecting habits of the 19th century.

The Crimson Rosella is relatively easy to see as it forages on the ground or among the leaves of eucalypts, with its spectacular combination of deep-crimson, royal-blue and black plumage. However, not all Crimson Rosellas look the same. Along the Murray River, Crimson Rosellas aren’t crimson at all — they are yellow, black and blue, with the yellow feathering replacing the crimson plumage. In southern South Australia they differ again, being roughly intermediate between crimson and yellow, with varying amounts of red and yellow in their plumage.

Research featured in the 'State of Australia's Birds 2015' headline and regional reports suggest that the Crimson Rosella may be declining in the East Coast.

There are several populations of the Crimson Rosella. Red (crimson) birds occur in northern Queensland, in southern Queensland to south-eastern South Australia and on Kangaroo Island. Orange birds are restricted to the Flinders Ranges region of South Australia, while yellow ones are found along the Murray, Murrumbidgee and neighbouring rivers (where yellow birds meet red birds they hybridise, producing orange offspring). Red birds have been introduced to Norfolk Island and New Zealand.


This specimen is part of a significant and rare taxidermy mount collection in the Burke Museum. This collection is scientifically and culturally important for reminding us of how science continues to shape our understanding of the modern world. They demonstrate a capacity to hold evidence of how Australia’s fauna history existed in the past and are potentially important for future environmental research.

This collection continues to be on display in the Museum and has become a key part to interpreting the collecting habits of the 19th century.

Physical description

There are several colour forms of the Crimson Rosella. The form it is named for has mostly crimson (red) plumage and bright blue cheeks. The feathers of the back and wing coverts are black broadly edged with red. The flight feathers of the wings have broad blue edges and the tail is blue above and pale blue below and on the outer feathers.

This particular specimen has lost some feathers in its plumage and its colour is not as bright as that of a live specimen.

Inscriptions & markings

77a / Pennant's Parakeet / See catalogue, page 22