There is an obvious reason why these peculiarly coloured birds of the genus Northiella have been given the name "Bluebonnet" in English.
How many different types of Bluebonnet are there?
The monotypic genus, Bluebonnet, consists according to the leading current scientific biological classification, i.e. "Howard & Moore's Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World", Vol. I, from spring 2013 as well as the latest version 4.1 (August 2018), "Errata and Corrigenda to Volume I", of the following 4 different types:
Nominate subspecies (the species):
Yellow-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematogaster) - (Gould, 1838), whose range is eastern South Australia to northwestern Victoria, western New South Wales and southwestern Queensland.
Red-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematorrhoa) - (Gould, 1865), which occurs in the interior of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.
Pallid Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster pallescens) - (Salvadori, 1891), distributed from the Lake Eyre and Coopers Creek region of north-eastern South Australia and almost certainly towards outer south-west Queensland and possibly north-west New South Wales. In some places, this subspecies is considered a local geographical variant of the nominate form, which it can be confusingly similar to, cf. below.
Naretha Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster narethae) - (H. L. White, 1921), which comes from an area covering from south-eastern Western Australia across the border of south-western South Australia including the extreme part of the state. As this subspecies differs quite a lot compared to the other types of Bluebonnets mentioned above, it is in some places treated as an independent species, but it is not, cf. the leading, current scientific classification.
Please note that when simply referring to Bluebonnets at the species level, Northiella haematogaster (i.e. the four different types under one), it is referred to in English as "Greater Bluebonnet".
In the following articles, the colour description of the nominate subspecies is based on Joseph M. Forshaw's "Australian Parrots", 2nd edition from 1981 (ISBN 1 85391 019 8). Joseph M. Forshaw is a world-renowned Australian scientist and ornithologist, so he must be a true expert when it comes to the description of these birds. Paradoxically, the description of the 3 subspecies in J. L. Albrecht-Møller's "Papegøjebogen" (in English "The Parrot Book") appears more precise than Joseph M. Forshaw’s, which is why this work is the source for the description of the 3 subspecies (note: legendary J. L. Albrecht-Møller, who was known for his completely unique knowledge of the entire order of parrots (Psittaciformes), was the author of the world's largest work on parrots, "The Parrot Book" (volumes 1 - 4), published in the period 1970 - 1973. It took him approximately 30 years to write this book, which unfortunately has only been published in Danish).
It is noteworthy that some of the types of Bluebonnets have overlapping ranges in east-central Australia. This means that intermediate types (interbred birds) have arisen in nature, which are also known from certain other parrot genera. The 4 different types of Bluebonnets can be interbred with each other, which of course must not happen in human care, as it is important to preserve the unique characteristics of each type for posterity. In practice, this is only a problem in relation to the nominate form and the subspecies Red-vented Bluebonnet. The birds can also hybridize with certain other parrot species, which is also completely unacceptable.
All Bluebonnets are fully protected by Australian law. The Naretha Bluebonnet is also protected by special legislation in the state of Western Australia.
The head of a Bluebonnet can be quite expressive. Here you can see one of my breeding males of Red-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematorrhoa) of the type with a wide red chest band, purposefully bred in human care. In the wild, these birds are not at all that colourful, neither in relation to the distribution of the red feathers, nor in relation to the intensity of the red feather colour.
During my research for the articles on the Bluebonnet genus, I came across that the wild-coloured birds in the south-eastern Australian state of Victoria have been traded at the following prices per pair (2010 figures in Australian $):
Yellow-vented Bluebonnet $110.
Red-vented Bluebonnet $160.
Naretha Bluebonnet $500.
Today these birds are traded, cf. the magazine "AUSTRALIAN AVICULTURE", Volume 77, No. 11, November 2023 (published by THE AVICULTURAL SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA INC.), at the following prices per pairs between Australian aviculturists (prices in Australian Dollars):
Yellow-vented Bluebonnet $200.
Red-vented Bluebonnet $200.
Naretha Bluebonnet $1,500.
Note: The prices above from 2023 apply in Victoria for pure species/subspecies, true pairs in good condition.
As can be seen from the above, the Red-vented Bluebonnet years ago was considerably more expensive than the Yellow-vented nominate subspecies in Australia, which probably must be seen primarily in light of the fact that it is the most brightly coloured type. As can be seen from the figures, however, this difference has leveled out over the past more than 12 years in Australia. In these years, the opposite applies in captivity in Europe, where purebred Yellow-vented Bluebonnets are quite a bit more expensive than prime specimens of Red-vented Bluebonnets. Among Red-vented Bluebonnets, the price varies enormously. The redder the birds are - in the sense of how intensively coloured the bird is and how widespread the red colour is on the breast, belly, underbelly and wing mirror, the more expensive the bird is. You can thus experience a strongly differentiated pricing when buying these birds.
Not least in the Netherlands, aviculturists have over many years bred some very intensively coloured specimens of the Red-vented Bluebonnet with large areas of intensively coloured red feathers. However, the Dutch strains of this subspecies are said to be endangered, as serious breeders' interest in these birds has waned, since aviculturists in general not will pay extra for such birds, which have been created after years of dedicated breeding work. In other words, this means that several of these incredibly beautiful tribes are disintegrating. In several places in Europe, you will often see specimens of this subspecies with not particularly intensive colours and weak coloring offered at spot prices, even though this is how they look in nature.
The Bluebonnet was years ago rare in human care, but is now relatively common. Three of the types are kept in human care, namely the Yellow-vented nominate form and the subspecies Red-vented and Naretha Bluebonnet, the latter of which is hardly seen in human care anymore outside of Australian bird farms.
In the following, the various types of Bluebonnets will be described in more detail. As a result of the very great similarities between the behaviour of the individual types, etc., the description of the nominate subspecies (the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet) is the most comprehensive. The descriptions of the individual subspecies therefore focus primarily on the differences in relation to the nominate subspecies, and where the differences clearly are greatest in relation to the Naretha Bluebonnet.
Conceived/Updated: 05.12.2010 / 30.01.2024
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