Red-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematorrhoa)

Red-vented Bluebonnets (Northiella haematogaster haematorrhoa) as they appear in the wild, have very little to do with the finest specimens that we have in human care today, which have much more intensive colours, just like the extent of the red colour on the belly and underbelly has become much more widespread. It should be noted that this photo, which is from the Internet, was taken in the part of Australia where the intermediate type also can occur. In my research for this article, it has been surprising to me to learn how few photos that there exist on the Internet of this subspecies from the wild.

The Red-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematorrhoa) is the most colourful type of Bluebonnet.

Colour description

Male and female: Forehead and mask ultramarine blue; crown, neck, chest and entire back grey-olive brown, lower part of chest and body sides yellow, middle of abdomen with spurs towards the sides and undertail coverts red (blood red, hence the name "haematorrhoa", from Latin "haima" = blood red); lesser and median wing-coverts olive gray like back; greater wing-coverts red, outer vane of primaries and secondaries deep blue; underwing-coverts blue; middle tail feathers blue with light tip and edge, the others blue-green with light tips, all are greenish at the base. Iris dark brown; bill bluish gray; tarsus brownish gray.

The female is generally duller in colour than the male; less red on belly and undertail coverts; the ultramarine blue colour of the face mask is duller and less widespread.

Length: 311 mm (males) and 287 mm (females).

As previously stated, the colour description above is taken from J. L. Albrecht-Møller's "Papegøjebogen" (or "The Parrot book" in English). In Joseph M. Forshaw's book, "Parrots of the World", 1st edition (1973), he writes that the median and greater wing-coverts of this subspecies are reddish chestnut. The funny thing is that Joseph M. Forshaw in the book, "Australian Parrots", 2nd edition (1981), writes that the inner lesser wing-coverts and median wing-coverts are dark brownish red. William T. Cooper's fantastic colour drawing of the subspecies in the same book shows that the greater wing-coverts and secondaries are reddish with a fringe of olive, which becomes wider the closer to the tip of the wing the greater wing-coverts are. In other words, there is no clear definition of this subspecies' colour pattern on the wings.

In the wild

The bird's range includes the interior of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, where its "stronghold" is the black earth plains of the central part of the Gwydir and Namoi rivers.

It is seen in all kinds of localities in the area of distribution, regardless of whether it is savannah, grass steppes, thickets and moist forest areas, where the vegetation often is sandalwood (belonging to the genus Santalum, a genus of evergreen trees divided into 8 species, some of which become approximately 10 m tall) or pines (Pinus pinea, which is an evergreen conifer with a short, erect trunk and with a broad crown that has a slightly rounded umbrella-shaped top). It is of course also found in the giant oaks, Bull-oaks (Allocasuarina), which occur in small groves, but also in the sand or poor soil, where the tree, however, only grows to 10 m high. Bull-oaks are a genus of trees in the flowering plant family (Casuarinaceae) that are endemic to Australia. The Red-vented Bluebonnet is very often seen in the old branches and trunks of these trees, which acquire a thick, reddish-brown and deeply furrowed bark, which it loves to gnaw on.

The Red-vented Bluebonnet feeds on all kinds of grass seeds, berries, buds, flowers, fruits as well as leaves and twigs from various growths. It is sometimes seen in gardens on the Australian continent when foraging.

I have spoken to aviculturists who have seen this species in the wild in Australia and who find it difficult to hide their disappointment that the bird is not as intensively coloured nor does it have as large patches of red as you can see on the finest specimens in human care. However, it is not so strange, as our birds in human care y are usually treated very well and always get sufficient and varied feed. In addition, the spread of the red plumage has been created through targeted breeding, where the breeders have selectively chosen the most suitable breeding birds to create even more red birds.

Bull-oak, also known as Buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii), has given the various types of Bluebonnets, including the Red-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematorrhoa), the name Bull-oak Parrot among the Australian Aborigines.


The Red-vented Bluebonnet is listed several times in the literature as endangered within its natural range, which includes southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. However, this does not appear from BirdLife International's records (see the article on the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet), as this organization only operates at species level (i.e. based on the nominate subspecies).

Nature protection measures

No separate conservation measures are listed for this species, which is listed on CITES, list II.

In human care

Already back in 1862, this subspecies could be seen in Europe, namely in the London Zoo.

Many years ago, when I saw this subspecies for the first time, I was incredibly fascinated by the unusual colour composition of the plumage and the funny behavior of the bird, where it raises the feathers on its head to a small "feather top" and at the same time continues to nod its head. Back then, the birds did not look at all like the most intensively coloured birds do today.

Certain aviculturists divide this subspecies into two types, the type with an "hourglass"-shaped red breast band and into another type with a broad red breast band that can cover the entire chest and abdomen from wing edge to wing edge, the latter of which is the result of years of selective breeding. One type is not more correct than the other, since it appears from the scientific species description that the red belly spot can vary greatly in distribution and intensity.

Over recent years, there seems to have been a sport among certain breeders in spreading the red colour to cover as much of the bird's plumage as possible. On certain specimens, the red plumage colour also covers areas that do not occur at all on birds in the wild, e.g. on the back of the head, on the lesser and median wing-coverts and on the upper rump.

Personally prefer specimens of the type with the wide red chest band that has a sharp colour pattern, e.g. a clearly demarcated red wing mirror, which covers all the greater wing-coverts, which I do not recall seeing on any females at all. I have been out to acquire a total of approximately 20 specimens of this subspecies at home and abroad, and from this collection of birds, I have carefully selected 6 really beautiful birds. These birds are composed of 3 mutually unrelated pairs, which form part of my basic breeding stock.

The photos below show some different varieties of the Red-vented Bluebonnet (at the time of the photos some of the birds were unfortunately moulting). It is mainly about my own birds:

In my opinion, you can only really appreciate the splendor of this bird's colours after a few years, as the colours often become more intensive with the bird's age, where the colouring also shows its full potential.

Once you have put together the right pair, it is a good breeding bird, which seems to have become more widespread in recent years. Unfortunately, many specimens are of questionable quality, both in terms of size and with regard to the colour pattern and the intensity of the colours. When the bird is in good condition and colour, it is a sight to behold, not least when viewed in sunny weather.

As an adult bird, the Red-vented Bluebonnet - like the nominate subspecies - can be extremely aggressive towards conspecifics as well as other - also larger - parrot species, which is important to keep an eye on. If you can live with the fact that the birds must be kept together in pairs in separate aviaries, you get a really beautiful and exciting representative of the smaller Australian parakeets with these birds.

Reference is also made to the corresponding section in the article on the nominate subspecies, the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet.

Colour mutations

Not surprisingly, the Dutch have also succeeded in creating a mutation of the Red-vented Bluebonnet. The pastel-coloured bird has considerably paler colours than the wild-coloured bird.

In addition, I have seen that it now also exists in a yellow colour mutation, probably a Lutino form judging from the colour photo that I have seen of such a bird.

We have probably only seen the beginning of the "mutation adventure" among the Bluebonnets, so more variants can be expected in the future.


See the article about the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet.

Jorgen Petersen

Conceived/Updated: 05.12.2010 / 30.01.2024