The Australian Galah

 

How to look after a baby Galah.

People are forever asking me, how to take care of baby galahs. It might be because they want to hand rear a aviary chick or they have found an abandoned wild bird. So I have put together this article to explain what I would do.

The article is divided into two sections.
1. Abandoned Wild Babies
2. Looking after a baby Galah

 

 

Section 1. ABANDONED WILD BABIES

Occasionally wild parent Galahs will abandoned their babies. This can occur because of a threat to the nest by a predator, the baby is a runt, bad climatic conditions such as a drought and sometimes just because the parent Galahs are bad at parenting.

It is important to state that some babies may have fallen out of their nest, and the parents may be still looking after it on the ground. In this case, it would be best to put the baby back in the nest, or if it is impossible to do so a safe, warm place where the parents can come a feed it.

If you find a baby bird that appears to be abandoned the first thing you should do is assess the situation.


Is the bird in any current physical danger?

Is the bird is on the ground near a busy road? Is a cat or dog stalking it? Are other birds in the area attacking it?

Yes the bird is in Danger

If the bird is in danger its time to act. If possible remove any threats out of the area. For example tie your dog up, put your cat inside. If the danger cannot be removed from the area you may have to capture the bird. Read Capturing an Injured or Baby Galah below.

No the bird does not appear to be in danger?

If the bird is not being threatened, observation is the first step required. Find out if the birds parents are returning to feed it. If they are it is best to let the parents look after the bird. Place it back in the nest or in a safe spot away from any physical danger. A cardboard box with a towel in it makes a nice refuge. Place it in a safe shady place away from cats or dogs, above ground level if possible. You may be required to bring it inside of a night to keep it safe from roaming nocturnal predators.

If the parents are not feeding it or are attacking it you must take further action. You will need to capture the bird.


Note:
Against popular belief parent galahs will not abandoned a baby if they watch or sense humans have touched it.



Capturing an Injured or Baby Galah

Your approach to the bird should always be in a direction opposite from any source of danger. So for example if the bird decides to flees, it will move in the direction away from a busy road.

By Hand

Depending on how old the bird is it might be possible to just simply walk up slowly and catch the bird by hand. Just be very careful, galahs are known to bite very hard. Especially older injured birds.

Approach the bird from behind, and depending on the birds age, place a minimum level of force on the birds back gently forcing its chest onto the ground. Then with your other hand, slide it under the bird’s belly. Now move your first hand from the birds back and use your fingers to make a firm but gentle grip around the birds neck. Lift the bird and hold it tight against your chest.

When carrying a bird move in a slow and smooth manner, and try to keep any talking to a whisper to prevent scaring the bird.

 

Towel or Blanket

Some birds will allow you to get really close but not actually pick them up. Throwing a towel or light blanket over them is probably the best method to use.

If you still just can’t get close enough, try getting a helper to herd the bird towards the towel so you can simply just lay it over the bird.

Some fishing nets will work equally as well in capturing the bird but have the disadvantage that the bird can still see what’s going on so is more likely to continue to struggle. Blankets have the advantage that they block out the light, which temporarily disorientates the bird, making it more passive.

To pick up the bird clasp the bird body with two hands from both sides, towel and all. Then scoop up the towel, bundling it up towards your body. Hold the bundle firmly against your chest.

 

Wetting the Bird

If the bird still won’t let you close to it, or has flown up to a low branch, you can prevent further flights by wetting the bird with a hose on a strong mist setting. Birds can’t fly when wet, but don’t over do it. The last thing a sick or abandoned bird needs is to be soaked to the bone.

If the bird now can’t fly, now try to use a Towel or Blanket to catch it.



Now a BIG DECISION now needs to be made.

A. Do you try and nurture the bird untill it can be released?

B. Would you prefer to let wildlife carers look after the problem?

Before deciding to let the wildlife carers take the bird it is important to remember they have very limited resources. Galahs rate low on the priority list as they take resources away from other more endangered species. So if you can, I recommend you try to care for the bird yourself if at all possible.

If you definitely can’t dedicate the time or your circumstances don’t allow for you to look after the bird…


Phone NSW WIRES: 1800 641 188


For those that are considering looking after the bird yourself, please read all of Section 2 of this article before deciding this approach is right for you.

 

 

Section 2. LOOKING AFTER A BABY GALAH

Hand rearing a baby Galah is a time consuming process but he rewards are worthwhile. For those raising an abandoned bird it’s the joy of keeping a bird alive and releasing it back into nature. For pet owners it is the friendly companion that will emerge.

Now you have the bird inside you need to find a place to keep the bird. A warm laundry is a usual favourite.

The bird needs to kept in a warm place away from any drafts, bright lights, direct sunlight, loud noises and dangers (like your cat or dog).. A cardboard box, with a towel scrunched into it forming a hollow works well. Whilst the bird is young cover the box with a towel to keep it dark when you aren’t feeding the bird. This will help it keep calm saving precious energy and allowing it to get plenty of sleep.

 

 

Administering Liquids

It is important the bird gets plenty of liquids. Using water at room temperature, use a thoroughly cleaned eye-dropper, or an old spoon with the sides bent upwards, to feed the Galah. With you hands gently tilt the birds head back, hook the eye dropper or spoon under its beak and then gently lift the beak till it opens. Then poor/drip the water gently into its mouth (not down its throat as it may go into its lungs and drown).

This will most likely be really messy, so wrap a cloth around the birds body to stop it from getting saturated and cold. Patience is the name of the game as a scared bird will put up a stubborn fight and refuse to drink until it realises you are trying to help it. So never yell at the bird, always praise and encourage the bird in a soft and gentle voice.

 

 

Hand Feeding

If the bird is too young to eat seed, you will have to feed it a suitable food mixture. Please consult a local vet or bird specialist on what food is most suitable for your baby bird.

Use a tea-spoon with bent up sides to feed you bird. DO NOT use a syringe unless you have been trained in its use. Otherwise you may squirt the food down the birds lungs which often leads to death.

Again wrap the bird in a cloth, because a reluctant bird will fight and shake its head to prevent you feeding it until it realises the food tastes good. Again be gentle in nature and in voice.

Hold the birds head back so it is looking upwards, this forms a straight passage from the mouth to the birds crop. Put the tip of the spoon under the birds beak lifting it gently until its mouth opens. Slide the mush into its mouth. Then allow the bird’s beak to close. Keep its head tilted back. Now gently hold the bird’s mouth shut with your fingertips for a few seconds until it swallows.

Again persistence is the key. If the bird isn't co-operating leave it for 15 minutes in a dark quiet place and the try again.

Very softly tapping on the bird’s beak with the spoon before feeding it is a good way of teaching the bird you want to feed it. This imitates the parent’s natural behaviour when it feeds a bird in the nest.

Once the bird begins eating, you will need to feed it three times a day. At sunrise (7am), before midday (11am) and in the evening (6pm). Follow up each feeding with a drink of water.

 

 

Teaching a Bird to Eat and Drink

As the bird gets older, introduce budgie/canary seed into the mushed Weat-Bix. Also try grinding some shelled sunflower seeds into the mix. So the bird becomes familiar with the seed and water, have a container of water and budgie seed where the bird can access it in its cage or box.

You can encourage a slightly older bird (once feathers start to appear) to eat and drink on its own by holding the bird near its seed/water bowl and pushing its beak gently into the seed or water. At this stage also introduce grass, fruit and vegetables into the birds environment for it to have a pick at. Promote these foods to the birds mouth to encourage picking.

Introduce the Galah to sunflower seeds by hand feeding it shelled sunflower seeds. Holding the seed in your fingers, push it under your bird’s top beak till its mouth opens then place it onto the tongue till the bird puts pressure back on the seed with its top beak. Hopefully it soon gets the picture that if it grinds the seed with its beak it gets a feed.

Once it starts eating the sunflower seeds from your hand, you have now acquired your secret weapon. The achillis heel to the galahs undivided attention. Galahs almost always prefer sunflower seeds to any other food. So hold these seeds back as a treat (too many sunflower seeds can cause obesity in pet galahs). You will use these seeds to reward good behaviour when training a bird to talk, for being hand fed or to come to you on call. If you wish to release or keep the Galah in a large aviary and are not interested in training the bird, you can simply add a supply sunflower seeds to the bird’s seed mix.

To get the bird use to cracking its own sunflower seeds, use your fingernails to crack and then peel off one side of the shell. Feed this to your bird. It will discover the shell doesn't taste so good and will discard it. Repeat this process for a few days. Now introduce seeds that have their shell split but not pealed off. The Galah will soon work out it has to manipulate and remove the shell to get to the yummy seed inside.

Once it gets the hang of this introduce uncracked sunflower seeds.

 

 

Release

Releasing an extremely tame Galah is not a wise move. It will not be able to cope with the dangers of the outside world. If you are looking to release a bird you have rescued:
- Keep human contact to a minimum.
- Ensure it can fly very well
- Introduce a mirror so it can associate with birds of its own kind.

If you wish to release your Galah it is best to keep it outside in a cage located under some the shade. This allows the bird to see and interact (call) with other Galahs. Once the bird is old enough to fly and can feed and drink without your assistance, open the galahs cage when other galahs are around. (Ensure it’s in a place safe from cats, dogs or other wild animals). If the Galah doesn't leave when the wild galahs fly away make sure you close the cage again.

Repeat this process, as it is important the Galah leaves of its own accord.

If after a week the Galah hasn’t got the hint, you can try removing it from the cage when other galahs are present and allow it to walk around outside. Leave the cage with its door wide open so if scared the Galah can retreat to its refuge.

Once the bird does decide to fly away leave the open cage outside for a few days with a supply of food and water in it. If the Galah struggles to find food it has a place to return for a feed.

If you find the Galah keeps returning for food, you can now remove the cage a just leave some food and water out in a bowl. You may now have a bird that will grace you with its company everyday.

If you are keen for it to look after itself without your assistance, sprinkle the seed on the ground so it learns not to associate food as coming from a bowl. Everyday reduce the amount of seed you put out until after a couple of weeks you are only putting out a pinch of seed. The Galah will learn through this method that if it wants a decent feed it will have to start looking elsewhere.

 


 

Note:

This post has been updated removing the suggestion of Wheet Bix as a suitable feed for babies. Wheet Bix alone does not have sufficient nutrients and vitamins a baby needs for proper development. It is best to seek professional advice regarding suitable diets where possible.

Also Galahs can make wonderful pets. Bare also in mind that someone willing to keep a Galah as a companion bird do not always think of the long term implications, these can include:

· A bird that is very intelligent and needs constant stimulation

· A bird that can live for quite some time. 50 years or more

· A bird that is very destructive, one of mine destroyed a $2,000 lap top and ate away part of a window frame.

· A beautiful cute, cuddly baby that suddenly is a terrifying wild creature with ultra sharp beak and claws at puberty.

Thanks to Petah for this information.


Cockatoos and Parrots - Advice from Queensland Environmental Protection Agency

You can identify cockatoos and parrots by their distinctive bills. These birds will eat from a bent spoon, as it resembles the parent’s beak. To feed them, insert the first part of the spoon into the beak. Feed the young bird until its crop is well rounded. Do not feed it again until the crop is empty. You can learn to identify when the bird’s crop is full by feeling it before and after you have fed the bird.

Young parrots need to be fed three to four feeds a day. Always make sure that the feed mixture is warm as these birds will refuse or spit out food if it is too cold.

Young cockatoos and parrots become tame very quickly. To reduce human impact, never pat or cuddle a bird. You should also place pictures of adult birds of the same species around its cage and avoid eye contact. Try to feed the bird in such a way that it does not see more than your hand and the spoon, and cover your hand with a sock that is the same colour as the adult bird (i.e. white for sulphur crested cockatoos and green for redwing parrots). A tame parrot is very difficult to release.

The following are suggested diets for young parrots:

* 1 cup Wombaroo granivore rearing mix
* 1 cup Heinz high protein baby cereal
* 1 cup Uncle Toby’s Natural Muesli (ground finely in a blender) or
* Heinz baby muesli
* 1 pinch of calcium powder
* 1 pinch of Ornithon (or other bird multivitamin powder)

Store this mixture in an airtight container and take out as much as you need each day for feeding. Mix with warm water to make a slurry.

You can also buy commercial parrot hand rearing products, such as Paswell parrot hand rearing food and Wombaroo granivore rearing mix. These products should be made up according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

In the early stages young parrots can be kept in a hospital cage (solid walls and a mesh wire front). It will be easier to the feed the bird if the cage has a door that opens from the top. Young birds can be kept warm with a heater pad, hot water bottle or a lamp with a 40-watt bulb. The young birds should be able to move from the heat source if they become too warm. Young birds that are able to perch can be transferred to a “cocky cage” that has two or three solid walls. Cover the top of the cage with a towel for added protection.

As the young parrot grows, thicken the porridge (add less water) and add soaked budgerigar seeds to the mixture. This will teach the bird to crunch on seeds. Commercial bird seed mix can be spread over the bottom of the cage along with shell grit, nuts from native trees, greens, pieces of firm fruit (e.g. apple), and vegetables (e.g. broccoli, sweet potato, beans) and sprouting seed mixes. The frequency of feeds should be reduced to encourage birds to start feeding for themselves. The bird will also pick up foraging tips from adults of the same species in the area. Eventually the young bird will start to crack and eat seeds by itself. Keep a good eye on the bird’s weight at this stage as some difficult birds will refuse to eat and may start to lose weight.

Another good way to start them eating for themselves is to put a bowl of “parrot porridge” in the cage and gently push the bird’s beak into the mixture. After a few times the young bird may start to drink the mix itself.

Slowly add more solid food to the mix (e.g. rolled oats and small soaked seeds) and over a week or two the young bird will start eating seed for itself.

Once the young bird is eating well by itself for at least two weeks it can be transferred to an open aviary.

www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation/wildlife/caring_for_wildlife/carers_kit/birds/raising_juvenile_birds/
The State of Queensland (Environmental Protection Agency)

 

Conclusion

I hope this article was of some help. It will surely help me so I don’t have to individually reply to all the e-mails I get asking about this topic. Anyway, thats another thing I can cross off my ever-growing to do list.

UPDATED: 26th October 2007


 


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