The Australian Galah

 

GALAH
Eolophus roseicapillus


DISTRUBUTION
Australia generally, chiefly the interior, accidental to Tasmania.

 

SUBSPECIES

1. E. r. roseicapillus (Vieillot)

10 males
wing 257 – 275 (266.9) mm, tail 135 – 161 (150.8) mm,
exp. cul. 24 – 30 (25.8) mm, tars. 25 – 27 (25.8) mm

10 females
wing 248 – 282 (259.6) mm, tail 140 – 170 (151.2) mm,
exp. cul. 24 –27 (25.1) mm, tars. 24 – 27 (25.6) mm

Occurs throughout eastern, central and northern Australia.

 

2. E. r. assimilis (Mathews)

ADULTS general plumage paler; crown more strongly suffused with pink; naked periophthalmic ring greyish white.

5 males
wing 262 – 269 (256.8) mm, tail 138 – 154 (146.0) mm,
exp. cul. 25 – 27 (26.2) mm, tars. 25 – 26 (25.6) mm

5 females
wing 245 – 273 (256.8) mm, tail 146 – 152 (148.2) mm,
exp. cul. 23 –26 (24.3) mm, tars. 25 – 27 (26.1) mm

Found in Western Australia as far north as the Fortescue and probably the De Grey Rivers.

 

3. E. r. kuhli (Mathews)

ADULTS similar to assimilis, but with grey-red periophthalmic ring.

5 males
wing 251 – 262 (256.6) mm, tail 125 – 136 (130.8) mm,
exp. cul. 24 – 25 (24.2) mm, tars. 23 – 25 (23.6) mm

1 Female
wing 235 mm, tail 112 mm
exp. cul. 23mm, tars 23 mm

Exact range is unknown, but birds from the Kimberly region, Western Australia, are probably best ascribed to the subspecies. I am provisionally accepting kuhli on the basis of periophthalmic ring colouration as noted on the label of one specimen from north-western Australia (AMNH. 619832). The type specimen is a very young bird and cannot be used for subspecific determination.

 

GENERAL NOTES
Galahs are abundant in most types of open country below 1250 m. They are typical birds of the savannah woodlands and open grasslands of the interior, but have benefited from land-clearance and the cultivation of cereal crops and are now becoming increasingly plentiful in coastal and mountainous areas, particularly in the Southern regions (for details, see Forshaw, 1969a and 1969b). They are common in many urban districts, even nesting in trees in gardens and parklands. There is evidence of some local movement, the pattern and extent of which appear to be unpredictable and probably dependant on food, availability and seasonal conditions.

They are usually seen I small parties or flocks, but large flocks of up to two or three hundred are common. They occasionally associate with other cockatoos and when feeding with Sulphur-crested cockatoos Cacatua galerita respond to that bird’s ‘sentinel warning system’, but at other times they are not shy. They spend many hours in the morning and late afternoon feeding on the ground, over which they move with a waddling gait. During the heat of the day they shelter in a tree or bush, idly stripping leaves and bark; they have been known to kill trees by removing bark from the trunks. After their evening drink they drift in small groups towards the roosting trees. At sunset they commence pre-roosting aerobatics, flying swiftly in and out through the treetops and swooping down towards the ground, screeching loudly all the while. They sometimes fly about and call at night.

The flight is moderately fast with full, rhythmic wingbeats. At the end of a long, high flight they spiral down, twisting and turning before finally darting into a tree. A flock of these cockatoos in flight is a most impressive sight as the sun highlights first the rose-pink underparts and then the soft grey of the back and wings.

Their food is seeds, grain, roots, green shoots, leaf buds and insects and their larvae. They eat sprouting shoots of wheat and attack both ripening crops and bagged grain, causing considerable damage. At Cunnamulla, Queensland, Allen (1950) investigated the feeding habits of Galahs over a period of twelve months. He found that they were feeding on seeds of grasses, mainly western button grass Dactyloctenium radulans, Flinders grass Iseilema membranaceum, and Mitchell grass Astrebla lappacea, and each bird consumed about 15 to 20 g daily. Crop contents from birds collected at Mangalore, Victoria, comprised wheat grains and seeds, including those of cape weed Cryptostemma calendulaceum and storksbill Erodium cicutarium.

 

CALL
In flight a shrill, disyllabic screech bordering on a cry; when alarmed a series of sharp shrieks. All call-notes are characteristic of the species.

 

NESTING
The courtship display is simple and generally includes aerobatics. The male, with his crest raised and head weaving slightly from side to side, struts along a branch towards the female and utters soft, chattering notes as he approaches. The female leaves the branch and, pursued by the male flies off, darting in and out through the trees and calling excitedly. They alight in another tree where the display is repeated and followed by mutual preening.

The breeding season varies from June to November in the north of the continent to August to January in the south. The nest is in a hollow limb or hole in a tree, generally a eucalypt growing near water. Bark is stripped away from around the entrance and the bottom is lined with a layer of Eucalyptus leaves on which are laid two to five, normally three, eggs. Incubation lasts approximately four weeks and both parents brood. The young leave the nest about eight weeks after hatching and are fed by the parents for a further two or three weeks. Adult plumage is acquired within the first year.

 

EGGS
Ovate; 9 eggs,
35.3 (34.5 – 36.2) x 26.5 (26.0 – 27.2) mm [H. L. White Coll.].


 

Forshaw, Joseph M. (1989)
Parrots of the World - Third Revised Edition
Lansdowne Editions
ISBN 0 7018 2800 5

 


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