Yellow-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematogaster)

A Yellow-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematogaster) in the wild of Australia. In this photo you can clearly see the pure yellow gump. This nominate subspecies is not particularly colour-intensive, as it only has a limited red belly spot, which is why the demand for the more colourful subspecies, the Red-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematorrhoa), has been greater for a number of years. As purebred birds of the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet have become rarer, the demand for this has, however, increased over time. Photo from the internet.

The Yellow-vented Bluebonnet is the nominate subspecies - the species - among the different types of Bluebonnets.

Colour description

According to Joseph M. Forshaw's "Australian Parrots", 2nd edition from 1981 (ISBN 1 85391 019 8), the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet is described as follows:

“Length 30 cm.

Adult male: Forecrown, lores, ear-coverts and foreparts of cheeks mauve-blue, merging into paler mauve-blue on chin; remainder of head, mantle and back greyish-olive; yellowish-buff shaft-streaking to feathers of ear-coverts; throat and upper breast paler greyish-olive, the feathers lightly washed with buff; lower underparts yellow with a variable red abdominal patch; bend of wing, primary-coverts and outer webs of primaries violet-blue; shoulder and outer lesser wing-coverts blue; inner lesser wing-coverts and median wing-coverts bright olive; outer secondary-coverts olive, broadly margined with blue, inner secondary-coverts bright olive; lower back grayish olive, merging into bright olive on rump and upper tail-coverts; under wing-coverts violet-blue; central tail feathers above bronze-green with dark blue on inner webs towards tips, lateral feathers dark blue, becoming paler on outer webs towards tips and with bluish-white on inner webs and at tips; underside of tail bluish-white; underwing-stripe absent; bill greyish-horn; iris pale grey-brown; legs grey. Weight 88 – 105 grams.

Adult female: Like male, but with less red on abdomen; mauve-blue of face slightly duller and less extensive; narrower, narrower upper mandible; underwing stripe present. Weight 74 – 84 grams.

Immatures: Duller than adults; little red on abdomen; underwing-stripe present”.

​The late Danish parrot expert, J. L. Albrecht-Møller. is more precise about the length of this nominate subspecies, which is given as follows: Males 295 mm and females 291 mm.

Several places in the literature state that this species is monomorphic and not dimorphic, i.e. that there are no visible differences between the sexes. However, the sexes can be visually distinguished by the colour of the bend of wing - as is the case with the subspecies Red-vented Bluebonnet - where this is turquoise on the male and pale blue on the female. In addition, there is another and even more well-known difference between the sexes among adult birds - which is also seen in a number of other Australian parakeets - namely a white area (or patch) on the underside of each feather, which, when the wing is unfolded, forms a transverse white "string of pearls” on the dark underside of each of the female's wings. Joseph M. Forshaw calls it an “underwing stripe”, cf. above.


In the wild

The Yellow-vented Bluebonnet, like the other types of Bluebonnets, is a country endemic species that lives in the semi-arid regions from eastern South Australia to northwestern Victoria, western New South Wales and southwestern Queensland. In eastern South Australia around Lake Frome, it probably mixes with the subspecies Pallid Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster pallescens), see separate article on this subspecies.

The Yellow-vented Bluebonnet is at home on grasslands with relatively few trees, open plains and woodlands or in dry scrubland with large single-growing oaks or pines. The birds' fondness for staying in the Australian giant oaks has given the bird the name "Bulloak Parrot" among the natives. It is also found in trees along streams or near grain fields.

They are fairly common in their range and less common on the outskirts of it. Pairs or small groups of Yellow-vented Bluebonnets of up to approximately 30 individuals are often seen foraging on the ground in the shade of trees. If you drive along the roads in these landscapes, you can often see small groups flying up along the roads in fright at seeing a car. Such a sight can usually be experienced in the afternoon, when the birds then fly to a nearby tree or wire. They can also be seen on the ground along railways looking for spilled grain, e.g. corn. On the ground, they move quickly with a slightly springy gait while maintaining a very upright posture. It seems that they stretch themselves to the limit in order to keep an eye on their surroundings, and they are also easy victims for predators and birds of prey, since they spend a lot of time on the ground. They are lively and always watchful, but farmers are not so happy to see them near agricultural holdings.

It is often found near Casuarina trees (a genus of 17 species of evergreen trees belonging to the Casuarinaceae family), Mallee trees (one of several Eucalyptus tree species) and Acacia woodland (Acacia aneura), or in other low trees in open sandy areas as well as near scrubland with Chenopod bushes (Chenopodioideae, a group of flowering shrubs). If you want to see Yellow-rumped Blue-masked parakeets in the wild, you have to go for the biotopes mentioned above, and there you will very likely come across this species.

During the breeding season, the birds are very quiet during the hottest hours of the day, and you therefore do not take notice of them, but if something unexpected suddenly happens, they raise their blue "feather top" and their wings while it, in a very upright sitting position, eagerly emits a warning cry.

They have an irregular flight that almost takes place in "waves" and usually close to the ground, where they just fly over bushes and then descend towards the ground again.

Bluebonnets do not migrate in connection with the change of seasons, but it is likely that they do make some kind of migration during periods of drought, where they seek to return to known streams or water troughs.

The pairs stay together permanently, but there is not the interaction or tenderness between the sexes that is known from a number of other parrot species. The male's courtship of the female is very entertaining and includes, among other things, that it stretches and sits very upright, whereupon it spreads or "shakes" its tail feathers, pushes its shoulders forward, beats or "vibrates" its wings; he also raises his blue feather on his head, which looks like a small "feather top". At the same time, the male "nods" his head very eagerly. Sometimes he also persistently taps the branch on which he sits with its beak. On the same occasion, he emits his regular calls consisting of two consecutive tones, only much louder and faster.

The Bluebonnet's voice is quite unique. The contact call, which is given irregularly in flight, is a harsh "clunk-clunk...clunk-clunk". When the birds are startled, these sounds are emitted with a closer frequency and higher frequency. While the birds are sitting on a branch, they can sometimes also appear with an almost whistling sound.

The Yellow-vented Bluebonnet breeds from July/August to December (in southern Queensland, however, during winter), but it has also been seen breeding at other times of the year following rainy periods. Both sexes help select the nest, e.g. a hollow branch or hollow in a tree. Apart from the trees along streams or at dams, most trees in the arid regions are often relatively small and stunted. The nest holes encountered in these dry areas can often be seen as small openings close to the ground, while the nests themselves can be quite deep. In particularly favorable years, i.e. with ample rainfall and with access to sufficient food, the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet can have 2 clutches of chicks, otherwise 1 clutch per year is prevalent. Its low-lying nest (from about ½ m to 4 m above the ground) can also be found in large trees. The nests are always found in the hollows of trees or in the seeded parts of a large tree, which are easily hollowed out for a nesting device.

The clutch usually consists of 4 - 7 (sometimes up to 9) round, slightly glossy, white eggs. Most often, 5 eggs are laid in rotten wood chips on the bottom of the nest. The eggs are hatched by the female during 19 - 22 days, and she often lies very firmly on the eggs. The male feeds the female while she incubates in the nest, and he also assists the female in raising the chicks. Up to 30 days old, the chicks can leave the nest in the wild, but for the first time they stay with the parent birds, where you can see the whole family group together. In the wild, the chicks change to adult plumage already at the age of approximately 4 months.

In the wild, the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet's diet consists of a wide variety of grass seeds, herbaceous plants (Herbaceous) as well as seeds and nuts from shrubs and trees, berries, various fruits, flowers, flower buds and nectar. Insects and insect larvae can also be in the natural diet.

It is not uncommon to see them foraging with other larger Australian parakeets, e.g. the Mallee Ringneck Parakeet (Barnadius zonarius barnardi). The food can vary, depending on the vegetation in the area in question. In their search for food, they also consume very small stones and gravel, as this facilitates their digestion.

Example of an crossbred bird of the nominate subspecies, Yellow-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematogaster) and a Red-vented Bluebonnet (Northiella haematogaster haematorrhoa), which is quite common in nature in the overlapping distribution area between the two types. I deliberately call it an "crossbred" or an “intermediate" type - and not a "hybrid", as it is a bird that belongs to the same species. Although this kind of bird is naturally occurring in the wild, in human care one must absolutely ensure that the nominate subspecies is completely separated from the other subspecies. Photo from the internet.

Natural intermediate types

There are many observations from Australia that point to an intermediate type between the nominate subspecies Yellow-vented Bluebonnet and the subspecies Red-vented Bluebonnet. In zoology, one speaks of intergradation (intergrade = intermediate type) about the way in which two different subspecies (here a species and its subspecies) are connected via areas where both populations exist and where individuals with characteristics from both types appear.

The intermediate type is common, where the ranges of the two types are adjacent to each other or overlap. The Toowoomba region in central-eastern Australia in particular is said to be home to the intermediate type. These birds are characterized by having a mixture of features from each type, which is most clearly reflected in the fact that the birds have a small red area on the wing coverts and both yellow and red colours on the underbelly. If you were to place these mixed birds with one of the two types, the many birds seem to have most features in common with the subspecies Red-vented Bluebonnet. A theory has therefore sometimes been put forward that these are young birds of the Red-vented Bluebonnet, but this is not a viable theory, as older birds also carry the mixed features.


The Bluebonnet is assessed by BirdLife International, the official "Red List" authority for birds on behalf of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), to belong to the "Least Concern" category. It is worth noting here that BirdLife International only operates at species level, which means that no distinction is made between the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet, i.e. the nominate subspecies and the 3 subspecies.

The reason for placing the species in the "Least Concern" category is that it has a colossally large distribution area and does not come close to BirdLife International's threshold values for vulnerability in relation to the distribution criterion. The same organization indicates that the development trend for the species appears to be decreasing, but this decline is not considered to be anywhere near the threshold values for vulnerability in relation to the criterion for the development trend for stocks.

BirdLife International has not estimated the population in the wild, nor has it estimated the trend for the population's development.

The distribution area is estimated by BirdLife International to be approximately 2,440,000 km2, corresponding to nearly a quarter of all Europe's total area.

Nature protection measures

The Yellow-vented Bluebonnet, like its 3 subspecies, has been completely protected in Australia for several decades.

I am not aware of any special nature protection measures for this species, which is also listed on CITES, list II.

A pair of Yellow-vented Bluebonnets with the female sitting on the left and the male on the right, which is larger and more intensely coloured.

Photo from the internet.

In human care

Until Australia, way back in 1960, introduced a total ban on the export of their fauna, including parrots and parakeets, it was not uncommon for newly captured Bluebonnets often to exhibit “refusal to eat”-behaviour. This is no longer a problem, as the birds that we have had in human care since then are exclusively birds that have just been bred in human care and that have got used to a life as aviary birds.

In human care the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet is a bird with an exciting, but unfortunately very aggressive behaviour. Like the other types of Bluebonnets, it is known not only to hunt, but also to kill its conspecifics and other parrot species, even if these are much larger than itself.

You must always have double wire mesh with a good mutual distance between your aviaries, so that the birds cannot bite each other's toes when they are sitting in the net. There are also known examples of them biting the upper beak of birds that have been in the neighboring aviary. If you keep several pairs of Bluebonnets in aviaries directly next to each other - or for that matter closely related species - you may find that these birds very often sit in the wire mesh towards the neighboring aviary and provoke each other. Some aviculturists therefore choose to keep Bluebonnets in aviaries separated by solid walls, so that the birds can fully concentrate on caring for their nest of eggs and chicks. These birds only have the opportunity to experience the world out through the front of the aviary. I am strongly opposed to this, as it cannot be right that birds in human care are cut off from all contact with the outside world and are thus relegated to a completely monotonous everyday life. I have therefore chosen to keep the Bluebonnets in every other aviary, and each of these aviaries has fixed walls on the back half of the length of the aviary, where the nest box is located.

The species is extremely active and very agile, therefore ideally a large aviary is required to give it the opportunity to take some flights. I have seen that some aviculturists recommend aviaries with the following dimensions: Approximately 3 – 4 m length and 1 m width and approximately 2 m in height. That must be an absolute minimum.

Yellow-vented Bluebonnets, like the other types of Bluebonnets, like to stay on the bottom of the aviary and investigate the surroundings and dig small holes in the bottom layer. After all, it corresponds to its behaviour in nature. In fact, it likes to gnaw on everything, which is why I always keep Bluebonnets in metal aviaries, and all the aviaries have a fully covered roof, since I lived in an urban area at this time, so that flying wild birds can't make droppings on the bottom of the aviaries, where the birds forage. In winter, the birds go in aviaries that have thermal roofs and fixed walls on the back and on the back half of the aviary sides. Since I live in the Nordics, the front part is partly covered with acrylic sheet or similar in the winter. In addition, during the winter I have with great success used a specially made large model of the kind of sleeping boxes that are used for African Lovebirds (genus Agapornis).

As bottom material in the aviaries, I use hill gravel. As all Bluebonnets spend a lot of time at the bottom of the aviary, it is important that you regularly have the birds' excrement analyzed for intestinal worms and other parasites and - if necessary - start a worming treatment. Here it is important to remember that the bottom material must be disinfected afterwards.

The Bluebonnets love to bathe, even at temperatures down to freezing, but it is important that the bottom layer around the bath bowl can dry up so that the bottom can be kept clean - this is the alpha and omega. It is also crucial to emphasize the importance of changing the water in the bath bowl frequently, at least once a day.

Another example of the nominate subspecies, Yellow-vented Bluebonnet, this bird is from Loro Parque.

As mentioned, these birds love to gnaw on everything, and the most natural thing is to offer them natural branches from e.g. birch, willow, or e.g. fruit trees, but remember that these must not have been exposed to pesticides or environmental pollution. A continuous approach to natural branches will - in addition to supplying the birds with important trace elements - also help to provide the birds with diversion and minimize the boredom of everyday life, and it also gives them the opportunity to trim their beaks. Natural branches in different thicknesses and placed at different angles can be used as perches. As the birds gnaw on the natural branches, they must be replaced regularly. It is a wonderful sight to see when these birds get fresh natural branches with flowers and fruit buds, which they immediately pounce on.

The sexes bond with each other, but you do not experience the close relationship with each other that you, for example, experience among certain other parrot species, where the male and female provide mutual feather grooming. In addition, the sexes also very often sit and rest in different places in the aviary, which also does not indicate a very close relationship. In order to achieve the best breeding results, it is recommended to start with many young - unrelated - birds, which are put together in one large aviary, where it is possible for the birds to choose their preferred partner. In addition to the usual annual ring, the birds can also be marked with a coloured ring. That way, they are easier to identify, and when two birds have found each other, you can easily find the right two birds and move them to a separate aviary. The birds must have the opportunity to mature and develop physically before they are allowed to breed. Therefore, I do not breed with Bluebonnets until they are 12 months old at the earliest, which in the long run also gives the best breeding results.

Its voice can seem quite melodious, but when startled or excited, it emits the call with a very high intensity. In this connection, the sexes can excite each other, and if you have two or more pairs near each other, it can result in the birds being quite vocal.

In Europe, the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet starts breeding in early spring, typically March and April, but sometimes it can even start as early as February, which i.a. happened to some Dutch breeders back in 2010, and in the harsh winter that year, it meant that several chicks perished. If you have the right pair, the bird is not difficult to breed and the birds will breed year after year, but it has a reputation in some circles for being somewhat more difficult to breed in human care than the Red-vented Bluebonnet. If a pair has not started to breed by the age of 2 - 3, you will hardly get any young from them. Therefore, the pair should be separated and a new constellation possibility should be investigated.

As a nest box, you can either use a hollowed-out tree trunk or a vertical nest box. Dimensions of the nest box can be with a bottom area of approximately 25 x 25 cm and with a height of approximately 50 cm. The diameter of the nest hole must be approximately 5 - 6.5 cm, but it apparently prefers as small a nest hole as possible, cf. field studies from nature, where the nest opening often can take place through a small hole in a knob. On the inside of the nest box below the nest hole, you can mount wire mesh or make a small wooden staircase. You can optionally fit a small piece of wooden board across the nest opening, so that the birds themselves can gnaw the hole larger.

The birds' preferences for a nest box can be influenced by the size and type of the nest box in which the bird itself has been reared. Therefore, it is always wise to ask the breeder of the female bird if you can see the nest in which the bird you intend to buy was hatched. If you have the space, you can offer the couple a selection of different types of nest boxes, which are placed in various places in the aviary. After this, it is up to the couple to make their own choice, after which the excess nest boxes can be removed. Once a pair has chosen a particular nest box that has been successful, offer this nest box to the pair each breeding season. Before putting a nest box into use – and/or when taking it out of service after the breeding season - you must, of course, carefully clean and disinfect it to avoid blood mites, other parasites or pathogens (bacteria such as salmonella).

A pair of Yellow-vented Bluebonnet, to the left is the female, which is slightly smaller and has weaker colours than the male on the right. The most significant difference is probably the male's much larger and more intensively coloured red belly patch.

The species usually has one clutch per year, which often consists of 4 - 7 white round eggs, which are hatched by the female alone over a period of approximately 22 days. After the eggs are laid, the male becomes very alert and flies up to the nest hole to look into the box. The chicks stay in the nest for almost 5 weeks. After the flight from the nest, the young become independent after 3 - 4 weeks. You must be aware that certain breeding pairs are very nervous, and they require absolute peace and quiet during the breeding season. Conversely, there are reports that certain females in connection with the implementation of nest control almost have to be removed from the eggs by hand.

When the chicks have become independent, you must be very careful about moving them to another aviary, as otherwise you risk the male bird - sometimes both parent birds - starting to hunt and attack the chicks. Not unusually, the male bird seems to go specifically for the young males.

Only young birds - and therefore not sexually mature birds - can go together in a large aviary, and it is important that they are put into the aviary at the same time if they come from different clucthes, so that all the birds have to get used the new surroundings at the same time. When the birds become sexually mature, they must be split up or sold off, as the males start to become very aggressive towards each other and sometimes also towards the females. When you put together a male and a female with mating in mind, you must always make sure to keep an eye on these birds, as some males can be very violent towards the female. It is necessary to have plenty of space in the aviary and some natural hiding places, e.g. dense natural branches or half a partition, so that the female can have some rest and the partners can get used to each other.

Young birds or newly purchased birds can be quite nervous and, at the slightest disturbance, quickly take off and fly hard into it without thinking that the aviary has an end wall. Therefore, it is important to have perches or natural branches at the ends of the aviary or even cover these with a piece of cloth. However, it is my experience that if you surround the birds with calm movements and speak to them daily in a low tone, then in the course of a few months they often become quite calm and sociable. It is not my experience that you can achieve a close relationship with the Bluebonnets, as it simply goes against their nature. It is therefore not suitable as a tamed pet bird, and this is supported by the fact that there are examples of young birds that have been tame in some sense suddenly attacking their owner as an adult bird.

There are relatively few breeders of the pure version of the nominate subspecies. It is thus not so widespread in human care, which is due to the fact that it can be quite difficult to find in pure species and not least in unrelated bloodlines, to which it is far from being as brightly coloured as the subspecies Red-vented Bluebonnet. Over the past few years, however, the nominate subspecies seems to have become slightly more in demand, which can also be seen in the market price of the bird. This is positive, so that it will not suffer the same fate as the Naretha Bluebonnet (see the article on this subspecies), which is largely no longer found in human care in Europe. Therefore, the coordinating initiative around a national breeding program undertaken in Germany to preserve the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet in human care is commendable. This initiative tries to create an overall overview of the status of this species in human care. The establishment of a central pedigree must help to ensure long-term, durable breeding results and that inbreeding is avoided. The initiative places great emphasis on recording the origin of the breeding birds (breeder's history, bloodlines, etc.), the breeder's breeding results and the distribution of the young to the parent birds. You participate by making an annual report of your breeding results.

A number of German aviculturists/breeders signed up in time for this coordinating breeding program, and at the start for approximately 15 years ago it was suggested that the birds originated from only 5 different bloodlines, which is unfortunately a very narrow genetic base for the conservation of species in human care. It would therefore be desirable if this coordination program could be expanded to become a European initiative.

The Yellow-vented Bluebonnet, like the Red-vented Bluebonnet, is very curious and will investigate anything new in the aviary. They are playful and can sometimes be seen playing with things on the bottom of the aviary for hours, tumbling around and may lie on their backs while holding the object they are playing with in their feet.

Its lifespan in human care is estimated at approximately 15 years, but older birds are also known.

A Yellow-vented Bluebonnet is foraging in its natural element. Bluebonnets often stay on the ground, where they forage and otherwise find important minerals and trace elements. It is characteristic of these birds that their flight takes place so close to the ground that they rise into the air when they have to pass bushes and then descend towards the ground again to continue their flight. As a result of this species living in very dry regions of Australia, the relatively few trees in the landscape that the birds can fly to are not that tall. Photo from the internet.

Colour mutations

I am not aware of colour mutations of the nominate subspecies.


As basic food, you can feed the Yellow-vented Bluebonnet with a good, varied parakeet mixture all year round, to which are added seasonal fruits (they love sweet apples, pears, oranges, etc.), berries and greens (dandelion leaves, bird grass, various types of salads, etc.). In winter, you can supplement the diet with fatty seeds such as e.g. niger millet, hemp and various varieties of sunflower.

In addition, you can offer them pellets, which in my experience is quite easy to get them used to.

You can also supplement the diet with animal feed in the form of mealworms during the breeding season, as these contain easily digestible proteins. In addition, during the breeding season, you can also feed with maize, home-made or ready-mixed egg feed and - not least - germinated seed.

Various forms of calcium supplements must also not be missing.

One must be aware that these birds - similar to the Red-vented Bluebonnet - consume a lot of food in relation to their size.

It is important to have a feed composition that is as varied as possible, so that the birds are ensured the best possible health and resilience.

Jorgen Petersen

Conceived/Updated: 05.12.2010 / 31.01.2024