Australian Bush Birds
Blue Bonnet  -  Northiella haematogaster
Blue Bonnet
Blue Bonnet feeding on the ground at Windorah, south-west Queensland.
Northiella haematogaster Northiella haematogaster
Underside of Blue Bonnets. The left photograph was taken at Windorah and the right one at Eulo (both in south-west Queensland).
map map Blue Bonnet - Northiella haematogaster - is a grey-brown, blue-faced parrot, appearing darker in poor light (despite the name it is the face that is blue, not the head). Wings and underside show various combinations of red and yellow depending on subspecies.

Several different schemes have been devised for species variants; common features appear to be:

 ¶  Yellow-vent subspecies with red breast and yellow vent area.

 ¶  Red-vent subspecies with red vent, red wash over wing in males. Yellow and red-vent subspecies interbreed where their ranges overlap.

 ¶  Red-bellied subspecies with red belly and yellow vent.

 ¶  A smaller version (narethae) in south-eastern Western Australia is completely isolated from other versions and limited to woodlands on the fringes of the Nullarbor Plain. This is known as the Naretha Parrot or Little Blue Bonnet.

Blue Bonnet - page 2
Blue Bonnets usually inhabit open country dotted with trees and small tree thickets (acacia, mallee eucalyptus, casuarina and cypress pine with under storey of spinifex, bluebush and saltbush in semi-arid regions). In the eastern part of the range birds in the red-vented subspecies are often found close to water but other subspecies live far from water and it is believed they get water from dew and succulent plants.

When water is available they drink at dawn and dusk spending the cooler time of the day foraging or resting on exposed branches and telegraph lines.

They retire to the shelter of shrubs or trees during the midday heat; while resting they are very quiet and still and difficult to find.

Blue-bonnets feed mainly on the ground in pairs or small parties eating seeds of grasses and low bushes including saltbush and acacia. They also eat nectar and native fruits; red-vented birds have been seen feeding on spilled grain along country roads.

Blue Bonnet crest Blue Bonnets can raise and lower their crown feathers producing a sort of crest similar to, but less developed than, cockatoos.
Predominantly brown upper parts provide effective camouflage while quietly feeding on the ground. Birds rely on this camouflage and delay flying away until closely approached then fly to a nearby tree; from a safe perch they watch the intruder while waiting for a chance to return to the ground.

Breeding takes place mainly between August and January but in more arid regions rainfall is a major factor in breeding. During courtship the male raises and lowers his 'crest', vibrates partly raised wings, stretches his neck, and moves his fanned tail from side to side. The nest is in a hollow in a living or dead tree with a small opening and not very high, many are less than 2 metres from the ground. The nest hollow may be shallow or up to 2 metres deep. Nesting trees vary with location; box trees and other eucalyptus are used between north-west Victoria and Queensland while casuarinas are widely used in western regions.

Blue Bonnets are believed to mate for life and can raise two broods in a good season. The male feeds his mate during courtship and while she is incubating and feeding the young. Initially, the female alone feeds the young by regurgitation; during that time the male calls her out of the nest to be fed in the morning and the afternoon. After a couple of weeks the male begins to feed the chicks directly and continues to do so until they are fledged.

A clutch may contain up to nine white eggs (23 mm by 19 mm) but four to seven, usually five, is more usual. Eggs are laid in wood dust and incubated by the female for about nineteen days. Chicks are fledged in another four to five weeks. Immatures are similar to adults but duller in colour with less red on their underparts; adult plumage is obtained by moulting at three to four months old.

Blue Bonnets are among species kept in cages but are aggressive towards other species to the extent of inflicting serious injury; they have to be isolated from other species.