The Australian Galah

 

Galahs

Galahs, where to begin? Galahs are a pink and grey coloured cockatoo found in most areas of Australia. Galahs have the reputation of being somewhat of a pest or nuisance. But Galahs are actually a highly intelligent, social and highly adaptable animal. This website on Galahs is dedicated to providing the most comprehensive coverage of the Australian Galah on the free internet.

 

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The Australian Galah (a thorough summary)

 

 

The Word Galah
Galah is an English word (Australian) pronounced ga-lah.
It originates from the Yuwaalaraay (Aboriginal language of southeast Australia) word gilaa.

 

 

Galahs Scientific Name
This is highly disputed between…

Eolophus roseicapillus

Cacatua roseicapillus

The Cacatua genus includes the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos.

 

Bird Group : Psittaciformes - Cockatoos, Parrots
Bird Family : Cacatuidae - Cockatoos, Cockatiel
Bird Name : Cacatua roseicapilla - Galah

 

 

Galahs Appearance

ADULT
Galahs are 35 – 38 centimetres in length and weight between 300 – 435 grams.
Galahs flight feathers and back are grey;
The Galahs crown is pale pink (almost white);
The neck and underparts of the Galah are rose-red.

Males: Dark brown iris (area of the eye that surrounds the pupil)
Females: Pink iris and their body is generally smaller in size.

YOUNG
galahs have greyish plumage and a grey periophthalmic ring (naked area around their eyes) fades as the galah approach the immature stage.

IMMATURE
galahs will have a pale brown iris. The periophthalmic will develop more wrinkles as the galah ages.

 

 

Three Sub-Species of Galahs

EASTERN - E. roseicapillus roseicapillus
These galahs are found in central and northern Australia.
Roseicapillus Galahs have a pink periophthalmic ring.

WESTERN - E. roseicapillus assimilis
These galahs are found in Western Australia as far north as the Fortescue and probably the De Grey Rivers. Assimilis Galahs general have a paler plumage; crown more strongly suffused with pink; naked periophthalmic ring greyish white.

NORTHERN - E. roseicapillus Kuhli
These galahs are found in the Kimberly region of (northern) Western Australia
Kuhli Galahs general have a paler plumage; crown more strongly suffused with pink; grey-red periophthalmic ring.

 

 

Galahs Voice
High-pitched, splintered identifying call "chill chill "
Harsher screeches when threatened, fighting or just having fun.
Soft, muffled calls to communicate with mates and to initiate close contact.

 

 

Distribution of Galahs
Galahs can now be found in every location and state of Australia (except some rainforest areas).

 

 

Galahs and their Spread across Australia.
Galahs are one of the few animals that have benefited from the arrival of European settlers to Australia. The clearing of land and planting of cereal crops have really suited galahs. This led to the increase in galah populations, and the galahs expansion into every corner of Australia (helped also by the escape of pet galahs, especially in Tasmania).

Galahs were originally found to live only in the semi-arid areas of Australia. Originally galahs were recorded to live on the East Coast or Tasmania.

 

 

Galahs Diets
Galahs naturally feed on grasses, herbs, seeds, nuts, berries, roots, green shoots and leaf buds. Sometimes eating insects and their larvae when additional protein is required such as when breeding.

After the arrival of European settlers galahs also feed on (and often prefer) grains, cereal crops, sunflower seeds and sometimes fruit.

Pet galahs should be fed a mixed diet of seeds (limit sunflower seeds as its high in fat), grass, leafy vegetables, fruit, oats and corn. Also provide shell grit and cuttle fish for calcium.

Galahs also require a daily supply of fresh water for drinking and occasionally bathing.

 

 

Galahs Social Habits
Galahs are a highly social animal. If circumstances allow galahs will form a close bond with a mate (member of the opposite sex) whom with they will breed with for life. If their mate dies galahs have been know to become quite depressed, though they usually will find a new mate.

Galahs show affection to their mate by preening each other’s facial feathers.

Galahs stick together in flocks that can range from as little as four to over one hundred birds. Galahs will however form pairs to leave the flock to nest. Galahs are not highly territorial and they often share roosting trees and food sources though minor squabbles frequently occur.

The Galah is a sedentary bird. It tends to sit around and remains in one area. When Galahs pair off, they form loose groups with other pairs. When they are eating, one bird will keep watch and if disturbed, the entire flock will fly off. This behaviour occurs when the Galah is feeding with other types of birds such as the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. The Galah is unapproachable at that time. It is easier to approach the Galah if the entire flock is made up only of Galahs. During hot midday hours, Galahs rest in trees. Galahs are not a shy animal!

A galah that is kept in captivity will often form a bond with a particular human carer or even other pets such as a dog or cat. They may shun or even attack other humans, pets whilst being a perfectly behaved galah to their adopted mate.

Like most parrots, galahs rely heavily on their sense of sight. Galahs can be tricked into thinking their reflection in a mirror is actually that of another galah. Mirrors must be avoided if you wish to form a strong bond with your pet galah.

 

 

Breeding and Nesting of Galahs
Galahs rarely reach maturity and breed before their fourth year. A female galah that breeds too early is prone to become egg bound. Galahs usually breed in hollow logs on eucalyptus tree. The galahs will line the nest with eucalypt leaves.

Galahs usually lay between 2 to 5 eggs. Both the male and female bird will take turns incubating (sitting on) the eggs.

The galah eggs will hatch in approximately 30 days. Again both the male and female galah will take turns brooding and feeding the babies.

A parent galah will feed a baby galah by regurgitating food it has eaten prior into the baby’s mouth.

After six to seven weeks a baby galah should be able to fly and leave the nest. Its parents will continue to support it for a few more weeks until it can fend and feed itself. Then the parent galahs usually become quite hostile, chasing away and disassociating themselves with their offspring.

The juvenile galahs will then join a flock of other juvenile birds until they reach breeding maturity (about 4 years). The galahs will then pair off and the cycle begins again.

 

 

Lifespan of Galahs
It is unusual for wild galahs usually to survive beyond 30 years of age. Cars, cats and sooting are the three main causes of death for wild galahs.

In captivity galahs can live to 80 years of age. So galahs are definitely a pet for life!

 

 

Pet Potential of Galahs
Galahs have been successfully kept as pets. Best success in achieving a friendly bird is to obtain a hand reared bird. Some hand-reared galahs will actually think of themselves more as a human than as a bird.

It is important all pet galahs have the opportunity to fly, either in a large aviary or in the home. Galahs are very inclined to just want to walk or climb around their enclosure. This can be overcome by putting the galahs food on a pedestal that requires flight to reach. Also don’t link all perch’s with connecting walkways.

Both sexes of galahs can imitate human voice but male galahs are known to be better talkers. Recent research into parrots seems to indicate that galahs can develop the communication and problem solving skill level of a two-year old child.

 

 

For more information on the Australian Galah please refer to the referenced Resource Articles contained in this site.

 

 

My Story

Note: First I must mention that I do not currently breed Galahs or have any available for sale. I also rarely take in injured, unwanted or baby Galahs.

I became introduced to these fascinating cockatoos when as a child I was given a Galah as a present from my Aunty Kathy. It was 1989 and named him Fred after the Galah in the poem Rub-a-dub-dub. As you will realise I actually named him incorrectly. Woops!

Fred was a middle aged Galah that was fairly tame, though when he didn’t get his way he was known to bite, HARD! Fred’s most famous talent was his ability to play soccer with a little plastic ball. If you rolled it near him he would chase it, pick it up with his foot, throw it forward and then chase after it again. I entered a newspaper colouring in competition where I drew a detailed picture of Fred playing soccer, which won me a Don Spencer’s LP which included the song “He’s a Smart Galah”.

Fred spent most of his time outside in a mid size cage, and was covered at night with my childhood favourite, blue cuddle-blanket. Being a Galah he quickly chewed to bits. Apart from soccer Fred liked to chew everything!

Fred learnt to imitate a whistle my mum taught him and was on the verge of learning to speak when we lost Fred. Whilst sitting on my hat (his favourite perch) playing with my hair, I noticed my little sister was holding the front screen door of our house wide open. I told her to shut the door as Fred was inside. Her famous last words
“ he won’t fly out”
still hangs uneasily in the air whenever the story of Fred is brought up. In most situations she would have been right, but this time there was a flock of galahs outside calling out wildly, and Fred was getting excited. So excited he jumped of my head and flew right out the door to meet them.

This wasn’t the first time Fred had escaped. Another time springs to mind where my mum had to rescue him from a couple of magpies that weren’t impressed with him being in their territory (our front yard). With a bicycle helmet and sunglasses on, mum carried Fred back to the safety of the house.

This time however concluded our association with Fred the Galah as we moved homes before being able to lure him back into captivity. He had tasted freedom, and he liked it!


It would be a few more years before we would own our next Galah. During this interim we continued to own pet budgerigars and we had also taken care of many other sick or abandoned birds. These included rosellas, grass parrots and crested-pigeons that we then released once they were healthy enough. In 1992 my parents bought me my next Galah. A young female I named Georgie.

We built Georgie a large aviary and though she was not very tame I spent copious amounts of time with her every everyday before and after school. She eventually gained enough confidence to approach me of her own accord and eat from my hand.

Having a pet Galah often lures more Galahs to your yard. Surprisingly having a single female Galah lures plenty of single male Galahs trying to find a way in (to the aviary that is ;).

One day a male Galah was looking very interested in Georgie and when we approached him he responded by saying;

“Hello”

when we returned the greeting he replied;

“My name’s Joe”

he then walked down to door of the aviary, so mum opened it. He casually but confidently walked in, and climbed up the cage to take his position next to Georgie. Joe was an extremely tame bird that for the first few weeks was extremely friendly (obviously a lost pet). But things soon changed.

One day whilst dad was repairing aviary frame (Joe and Georgie decided that the hardwood frame was good for chewing) Joe came over to inspect his handy work. But when he got out the hammer to nail in some supporting bracing Joe changed. He raised his crest, looked at dad and said:

“Beeee-care-fullll!!!”

When dad started hammering Joe jumped on him and started biting him. Dad was not impressed! I had to plead with him not to release him.

Joe now became extremely defensive of HIS (capital letters) aviary. You could still go in there but if you didn’t come offering acceptable gifts such as fresh grass, dandelion flowers or broccoli pods watch out! He was vicious! He particularly didn’t fancy bare feet, and would lunge for the skin between your toes.

Joes mood swings were very erratic. He would be a ‘friendly chappie’ one minute and complete monster the next. Many unsuspecting visitors to our house who fell for Joes trap soon experienced his wrath. They would disobey our warnings.

“He’s so friendly. Look he’s eating out of my hand. You have this bird all wrong”

then as though he knows you have put your guard down, “Whack!” he’s taken your finger tip right off. Sometime he was considerate enough to issue his eerie warning before striking.

“Beeee-care-fullll!!!”

When Georgie was two and a half years old we built a large nesting box for her. Unfortunately she became egg bound and died suddenly without any warning. Joe suddenly became less aggressive. We soon realised it wasn’t the same old Joe anymore as he fell into a mild depression. He now required constant attention to keep him interested otherwise he just sat quietly in the back corner of the aviary.

We decided the best thing for Joe was to release him back into the wild. Till this day (February 2005) Joe still comes back to our backyard for a free feed. He found a new mate and sometimes graces us by returning with his new offspring. Joe still isn’t scared of humans and will give unsuspecting humans a quick nip if they are a little too slow for his liking when pouring the seed into the bird feeder. Surprisingly though he is scared of the other wild Galahs and will run (waddle) over to you for support if they dare try and eat his seed. Joe, our scared bully Galah.

We have also raised many sick, injured or abandoned baby Galahs (though some unfortunately didn’t make it). The lucky ones that survive we have released or if tame given to good homes. Though we currently do not have any galahs in our ownership, we continue to enjoy their company when they come to explore out garden.

 

 

End Notes

I hope you enjoy this website dedicated to the Australian Galah, the information I have collated on this page and the story of my involvement with these fascinating creatures.

Like all animals Galahs are just trying to survive in this complex and ever changing world we humans have created. Galahs rarely receive the credit this highly intelligent, complex and adaptable animal deserves. It is interesting to note that like us humans:

- Galahs forge a lifelong bond with their mates.

- both the male and female galahs share the responsibility of raising their young.

- Galahs belong to complex social groups that change as they get older.

- Galahs are also a fun loving animal that likes to muck about and be happy.

The similarities go on and on. I actually think there is a little bit of Galah in all of us.

Cheers

 


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