The Pennantian Parrot

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CRIMSON ROSELLA – a.k.a. Pennantian Parrot

Joseph Banks, who travelled around the world with James Cook on the ship HMS Endeavour in the years 1769 to 1771, collected many specimens of the natural world. The beautiful Crimson Rosella was one of the amazing exhibits brought back to England by Banks. The bird was firstly named the Pennantian Parrot in honour of Thomas Pennant, internationally acclaimed English zoologist who was the first person to publish popular travel books.

Crimson Rosella
Crimson Rosella

Governor Phillip reported regularly to the British government on the development of the settlement at Sydney Cove and these reports were used as the basis of a book titled The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay published in 1789. The Pennantian Parrot was one of the birds printed in this book and described in detail to awaken the interest of the reader in the new continent.

The size of the scarlet lory, length sixteen inches: the bill of a bluish horn colour: the general colour of the plumage scarlet; the base of the under mandible and the chin covered with rich blue feathers; the back black, the feathers edged with crimson: wings blue, down the middle much paler than the rest: the quills and tail black, the feathers edged outwardly with blue, and three of the outer tail feathers, from the middle to the end, of a pale hoary blue: the tail is wedge shaped, the middle feathers eight inches [20centimtres] in length: the outermost, or shortest, only four [10 centimetres]; the bottom of the thighs blue, legs dusky, claws black.

The Cumberland State Forest on Castle Hill Road, which was an original land grant of 100 acres [40 hectare] to James Shepherd in 1804, is an ideal location to view the Crimson Rosella in its natural setting.

Further information available from Cumberland Bird Observers Club,

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, recounts some of these stories (and others) in more detail.