Pink-and-grey cockatoo, Red-breasted cockatoo, Roseate cockatoo, Rose-breasted cockatoo, Galah cockatoo
An unmistakable and attractive species of cockatoo, a Galah is a familiar sight in much of Australia. It can be distinguished easily from other cockatoos by its distinctive gray and pink plumage. It has a short crest, which it can erect, and looks just like a cap when it is lowered, and ranges from white to pink. The male and female can be distinguished by their eye color: dark brown for the male and red to pinkish-red for the female. Juveniles have a wash of gray on their underparts, reaching full adult plumage when they are about a year old.
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The Galah lives in most parts of Australia, including some offshore islands, and it has been introduced to Tasmania. It occupies a range of habitats, including woodland, grassland and shrubland. It also adapts well in urban areas, pastures, parks, and agricultural land, though it avoids dense forest.
Habits and lifestyle
A highly sociable bird, the Galah is often seen in huge flocks that number as many as 1,000 individuals. They tend to feed in either the morning or late afternoon. They often mix with other species of cockatoo. In hot weather, flocks spend much of their time sheltering among shrubs and trees. They are often seen in acrobatic postures, sometimes hanging upside down, holding on by one foot only, flapping their wings and giving a loud “scree!” At dusk, they perform further acrobatics before roosting. They fly swiftly through the treetops, twisting and turning as they swoop towards the ground, screeching as they go.
flock, company, pandemonium
Diet and nutrition
Galahs eat seeds, grains, fruits, nuts, berries, grasses, roots, leaf buds, green shoots, and insects and their larvae.
Galahs are monogamous birds and pairs mate for life. Males display to females by strutting towards them, with bobbing and waving of the head and raising of their crest, giving soft calls and also clicking their bill. The breeding season in the north is from February to July, and in the south from July to December. Galahs nest in tree hollows or in cavities in cliffs. Often many pairs nest close to each other. Females lay between 2 and 5 white eggs, and incubation lasts around 4 weeks, shared by the parents. The chicks are fed at the nest by their parents for 5 to 6 weeks. They then leave the nest to gather in a “crèche tree”, along with other young birds. For 2 to 3 more weeks they are still fed by their parents. Then the parents fly away to molt. The young are independent by between 6 and 8 weeks old. Young birds join large nomadic flocks with non-breeding birds until they are 2 to 3 years old. They are ready to breed when they are four years old.
February-July in the north; July-December in the south
The Galah is an abundant and widespread species, and it is not currently considered at risk of extinction. Galahs are, however, considered a pest throughout most parts of Australia and can be trapped, shot or poisoned in an effort to reduce losses to local agriculture, especially in grain-producing districts.
According to the IUCN Red List, the global population size of Galahs has not been quantified, but the species is described as common. This species’ population is increasing today and it is classified as least concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Galahs are important for seed dispersal, which is of great importance for ecology and the evolution of plants. But often they can cause damage to the trees they roost in by chewing the bark.
Fun facts for kids
- The Galah is amongst the most widespread and abundant of cockatoo species.
- The word “galah“ in Australia has come to mean ‘idiot’ or ‘fool’, possibly because of the bird’s playful antics.
- A Galah often makes a contact call when it is flying, a brief “chet” that is often repeated. The same call is made and repeated more quickly when the bird is alarmed. While perching, it makes a “tit-ew” or “chet-it” sound. When threatened or in defense of its territory, the bird repeats a loud screech or “scree” sound, with its crest erect, its tail fanned and its wings outspread.
- Galahs are well adapted to inland Australia’s hot, arid conditions, and can tolerate high temperatures as well as long periods of dehydration. They can rehydrate through drinking salty water.
- Galahs strip bark away from the entrance to their nest, and line the nest with leaves, the only cockatoo species to do so.
- Galahs sometimes breed with other species of cockatoo.