The Galah is July's bird of the month.
The Galah is an iconic Australian cockatoo, and a regular visitor to Centennial Park. Although not as common as the white cockatoos, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and the Corellas, small flocks of them are often seen feeding on the lawns and playing fields. The Galah has a rose pink face and underparts topped with a whitish pink crown and crest, a dull white beak, and a greyish ring of bare skin around the eye. Its back and wings are silvery grey. The sexes have similar plumage but if seen close enough can be distinguished by the female having a light brown to red iris, while the eye of the male appears almost black. Juveniles have a grey wash to their underparts with the richness of the pink face and breast developing with age.
Galahs are found throughout Australia except for the most arid inland deserts and dense rainforests. Like its cousins, the Long-billed and Little Corellas, it was originally a resident of the inland plains, but agricultural development after European settlement provided vast new fields of grasses and grain allowing them to extend their range to the coast. Their popularity as a cage bird and household pet in the past may have assisted their colonization of our cities. The Galah has become popular internationally as a companion or aviary bird, but its export, and popularity as a pet in Australia which now has specific controls to help protect populations in the wild.
Before European settlement Galahs fed on a wide range of native grasses, seeds, berries, and nuts, with insects and grubs taken for protein during breeding. Flocks of Galahs can travel long distances in search of suitable feeding grounds and access to water. Introduced crops of cereals and fruits extended their diet, distribution and population, and made them very unpopular with Australian farmers. They have adapted well to take advantage of the introduced grasses, tubers and herbs in our urban parks.
Galahs mate for life, but if a partner dies they will readily bond with a new bird. Their breeding season runs from mid-winter to early summer in southern Australia, and late summer to mid-winter in the north.
They usually nest in tree hollows lined with leaves, and lay two to five eggs. The pair share incubation for about four weeks and then feed the chicks at the nest for another five to six weeks. After fledging the chicks join other young Galahs in a tree away from the nests, but are still fed by the parents for two to three weeks before becoming independent and joining nomadic non-breeding flocks. Galahs take about four years to reach breeding maturity and form pair bonds of their own. Sadly, there is a high mortality rate among young Galahs before they reach maturity.
In captivity it was shown that Galahs are able to interbreed with other cockatoo species, including Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Cockatiels, and there have been reports of wild Galah X Corella hybrids occurring, but so far this hasn’t been observed in the park.
In the Park:
Galahs are sometimes seen in large numbers, but are usually found in small flocks in the Parklands, feeding on the playing fields and lawns, sometimes in the company of other cockatoos or pigeons. Their distinctive pink and grey plumage make them easy to identify.
When roosting in trees, often during the midday heat, they can playfully strip away bark and prune small branches with their powerful bills. This may be distressing to tree lovers, but is simply the result of a highly intelligent and playful bird with too much time to fill. Chewing items in their environment can also help maintain their beaks at the correct length and condition.
This information was curated by a team of passionate Centennial Parklands volunteers and with the assistance of Volunteer Program and Asset staff. Find out more about our volunteer programs here.