All About Galahs

The Galah is an Australian icon.  It is found right across the country and it’s harsh, annoyingly pitched, screeching is heard so often across the Australian country side that hardly an eyebrow is raised.

Although it is very common, it is a beautiful cockatoo, with a pink breast and head and grey wings.  The crest on top of a Galah’s head is very pale pink, almost white.   A male galah has brown eyes whilst the females are red.  Galahs were once known as Roseate or Rose-breasted Cockatoos, but these terms are rarely heard today.

Galahs prefer relatively open country and are a common site roosting on farmer’s fences or electricity and telephone wires.  They can be found in large flocks when food is plentiful or when drinking.  Galahs also frequent parks and gardens in metropolitan areas, although usually in smaller groups.

GalahCredit: Steven PIke

They have a bad habit of drinking from gutters and roadside puddles after rain, particularly if it has been dry for a period of time before the rain or the water is near a food source.  Quite often, galahs will fall victim to moving vehicles.

It is whilst spending time in the country, especially camping, when their presence is noticed most.  In the Riverland regions of South Australia, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Corellas are common in some areas, along with the galahs.  All three have distinctly different screeches, although they all can be ear splittingly piercing, especially the larger Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos. 

Early morning and then again late afternoon, the galahs can be heard flying overhead, returning to their overnight roosts.  If you are fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your point of view) you may be camped near such a roost.  If so, then be prepared to be woken up at the crack of dawn.  Galahs are very noisy in the mornings with the continual screeching and chattering guaranteed to wake the heaviest of sleepers.  Having said that though, it is a pleasurable experience really, making you feel very close with the environment you are visiting.

Like most cockatoos, galahs nest in tree hollows, so it is essential that the big old river redgums that line our rivers and creeks are preserved, as it’s only the large, gnarly trees that contain the hollows and holes perfect for nesting birds.

Adult birds will fiercely defend a nest and their young.

I once watched a large goanna scale a massive old redgum on the banks of the Murray River.  A large bough had snapped off long ago, leaving a hollow at the broken end.  This hollow was at least 5 or 6 metres off of the ground.  The goanna unerringly climbed up the trunk and out onto the bough, before sticking it’s head into the hollow.  Goannas love bird eggs and young fledglings.  There was a very loud screech and the goanna retreated with a hiss.  A female galah hopped onto the bough and screeched again at the goanna.  The lizard stood his ground before the male galah appeared and both birds continued to harass the large lizard with fearsome displays of their crests and that screeching.  The goanna gave up in the end.

Galahs are popular pets and a permit is required to keep one.  It is not a responsibility to be taken on lightly as galahs can live in excess of 50 years.  They are easy to care for and are excellent talkers.  Extremely charismatic birds, they are guaranteed to make you laugh.  One of the major drawbacks with them as pets is they will often only take to one family member and will bite any one else who gets too close.  One particularly moody bird I was familiar with would let only the man of the house handle him.  His wife could get nowhere near him.  If he was let out of his cage, he would sit with the male, avoiding even eye contact with the female.

Galahs are a beautiful and common bird and everyone should see them in their natural environment which, thankfully, is not a difficult undertaking.