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The Scientific name for Galah is Eolophus roseicapillus. Some authorities believe that the Galah is part of the Cacatua genus, which includes the white cockatoos. Whichever is correct, all agree that there are at least two, and possibly three, subspecies.
The most commonly seen Galah in the eastern states is the Eastern subspecies (E. roseicapillus roseicapillus). There are also small populations of a Western subspecies (E. roseicapillus assimilis) in Western Australia, and a Northern subspecies (E. roseicapillus Kuhli) in the north of Australia. The difference between the subspecies is slight, and involves the size of the bird, and the size and colour of the crest and the skin around the around the eye. By far the most common one, and the most commonly kept as a pet, is the Eastern subspecies.
There are also some new colour mutations of Galahs bred in Australia.
There are several ways to obtain Galahs. Often people have 'found' Galahs in a paddock, or have rescued injured birds on the roadside. Although their intentions are always the best, this rarely results in a good pet, and may be illegal in some states. Galahs can be purchased in pet shops, but these may be legally trapped birds, and once again do not make good pets. Fortunately for those wishing to have a good tame pet, some aviculturists are now turning their hand to breeding and hand-rearing Galahs for the pet trade, and these birds make the best pets.
It is very difficult to age a Galah. Young birds often have a suffusion of grey through their pink feathers. This usually moults out between 6 to 12 months, and from then they cannot be aged correctly. Female Galahs (hens) often develop a pink iris at about 12 months of age, and this can be used to sex them. However, while all Galahs with a pink iris are hens, not all hens have a pink iris !
When purchasing a Galah, examine it carefully. Warning signs include:
Don't accept assurances that the bird is only moulting, or is stressed. Galahs, like many other parrots, are susceptible to some very serious diseases. These include chlamydiosis (psttacosis) and circovus disease (Beak and Feather Disease). These are very common in wild caught birds, and in some aviary-bred birds. Both of these disease spread readily from bird to bird and psittacosis will effect people as well. For this reason it is wise to insist on a money-back guarantee subject to a post-purchase examination by an avian vet. There are special tests for these diseases, but these need to be carried out and interpreted by a vet who knows and understands birds and diseases.
Place the cage in a part of the house where the bird will see people and be part of the family activities. Remember that Galahs are a flock bird, and they regard people as part of their flock. It is very stressful for them to be out of sight and sound of the rest of the flock. Be careful though, not to put it somewhere where the traffic flow is so busy that your Galah gets stressed by constant activity !
Perches in the cage should be natural, non-toxic tree branches. Galahs particularly like chewing gum branches and these should be supplied regularly. Ensure that food and water dishes are not under the perches where the bird's droppings can fall in.
Position the cage and the perches so that the bird sits at about your chest height. If it is below that, it can become very timid and scared. Above your chest, your bird will think it is dominate to you. This can lead to problems with screaming and bitting.
Galahs are great chewers, and therefore the wire of their cage should be strong enough to withstand their beak. Use stainless steel feed and water dishes, or heavy ceramic dishes. Avoid galvanised dishes - not only are they poisonous in their own right, but they often have lead solder around their base.
Some of the toys
you can provide include:
• Galahs that are higher than the rest of the flock are dominant. Dominant birds will discipline their flock mates by yelling at them, or with a well placed nip. They will expect the best of everything, and expect it first. If they fail to get this, they can react angrily.
• At around 2 to 4 years Galahs are old enough to choose a mate, and bond with them. Any other member of the flock coming between them and their mate requires disciplining. The sudden removal of that mate can be very stressful, and lead to behaviour such as feather picking.
To help deal
with this sort of behaviour, try the following tips:
• Don't react to it's screaming by yelling back - that's just what it wants. If possible, Ignore it, or place it in a dark room for 10 to 15 minutes.
• Never hit your bird - it achieves nothing except a scared bird.
• Feed your bird twice daily. By controlling access to food, you establish dominance.• Give your bird lots of love and attention, but don't start with levels of attention that you can't maintain.
Don't be afraid to seek professional help if abnormal behaviour such as feather picking, screaming or bitting starts. The sooner it is recognised, and treatment begins, the better the chance of a successful outcome.
Galahs can make wonderful pets but they have special needs and requirements. Recognising this, and taking steps to deal with it, can help you to enjoy what must be one of the most under-rated pets in Australia.
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