Not long after Joe the sulphur-crested Cockatoo (see one of my early blogs) joined our family in the 1940’s my Father Eric came home one evening with a cage containing an injured Galah parrot. To us children this multi-coloured bird was a thing of beauty and by common consent it was agreed we should call our new pet “Pretty.”
Pretty was a young bird and was not at all concerned at being caged. None of us knew the circumstances under which this bird was injured. A travelling salesman had picked it up on the roadway on his dusty trip from the capital city Brisbane to Eric’s motor supplies shop in Gympie, and not knowing what to do with the bird he’d offered it for adoption. The salesman, whose motivation in rescuing the bird was pure, had bite marks all over his hands as a reward for his concern and was anxious to get this ungrateful bird out of his life, but conscience would not permit him to leave it by the roadside to fend for itself.
Having closely observed the wounds on the salesman’s hands Eric rushed to buy a cage, into which the salesman thankfully deposited the bird. The galah rocked back and forth on her wooden perch and surveyed Eric with black beady eyes. A quick trip to a pet shop produced seeds and cuttlefish which Pretty began to destroy immediately. Birds love the calcified remains of this sea creature found in abundance on Australian beaches! Our twice a year trip to the seaside on holidays would henceforth include a daily hunt for cuttlefish on the beaches.
Pretty settled into her new surroundings quickly. For a while we experimented with trying to entice her out of the cage knowing she’d not be able to fly away, but the bird preferred to climb back into her cage which was obviously her sanctuary from whatever calamity had befallen her in younger days. Later we trimmed wing feathers before attempting to give her time out of the cage. The experience with Joe making it up to the top of a tree and almost starving not having the courage to fly down made us more cautious with Pretty.
Out in the wilds birds groom each other, but when immobilized and away from other birds the formation of calcium deposits irritates, and both Pretty and Joe would almost beg for us to scratch in among feathers they couldn’t reach on neck and head. They’d give most accusing looks when we children tired of the game and looked for other entertainment. They’d rock on their perches and screech in anger as we departed.
Now and then Pretty would give a sound bite on a finger to let us know the grooming session had ended and as blood spurted from fingers we’d understand how it was parrots could crack nuts as expertly as we could hammer out nut kernels.
Ian was the experimenter in the family. He discovered when you stretch cloth tight a parrot’s beak cannot grip and slides on the fabric rather than penetrates skin. So to demonstrate this new found and valuable scientific discovery he performed for the neighbourhood children sitting on Pretty’s cage while the bird tried diligently to inflict punishment for that insult. But to no avail! The more Pretty’s beak slid on that taut fabric covering Ian’s posterior the more Pretty would shriek in frustration. However in the last of those scientific demonstrations Ian got the giggles, the fabric loosened and as a result Pretty found her target with immense satisfaction. This time blood flowed, but not from fingers. The experiment was discontinued.
But all was forgotten next day when Pretty rocked over to the side of the cage, turned her head ninety degrees and presented herself for her daily grooming. Ian gingerly extended a finger ready to withdraw at great speed if necessary, but peace reigned in Pretty’s world and there was no more cause for concern.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2011. All rights reserved”
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…
The Cacatua genus includes the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos.
Bird Group : Psittaciformes – Cockatoos, Parrots
Bird Family : Cacatuidae – Cockatoos, Cockatiel
Bird Name : Cacatua roseicapilla – Galah
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.
galahs have greyish plumage and a grey periophthalmic ring (naked area around their eyes) fades as the galah approach the immature stage.
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.
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 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.