Galah (Cacatua roseicapilla)

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Galah at waterhole
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST
CONCERN

Top facts

  • The galah is one of the most abundant and widespread cockatoo species.
  • The galah is easily distinguished from other cockatoos by its distinctive grey and pink plumage and its short pink to white crest.
  • The word ‘galah’ has come to be used in Australia to mean ‘fool’ or ‘idiot’, possibly because of this species’ playful antics.
  • A highly social species, the galah often occurs in large, noisy flocks.
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Galah fact file

Galah description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittaciformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusCacatua (1)

An attractive and unmistakable species of cockatoo, the galah (Cacatua roseicapilla) is a familiar sight across much of Australia. The galah can easily be distinguished from other cockatoo species by its distinctive pink and grey plumage (2) (3) (5) (6) (7).

The upperparts of the galah are pale grey, while its head, neck, underparts and underwing-coverts are a deep rose-pink (2) (3) (7). The rump and the undertail-coverts are lighter grey, and the tail is grey with a slightly darker tip (2). The galah has a short, erectable crest which varies from white to pink and looks like a cap when lowered (2) (3). This species’ legs are grey, its strong, hooked beak is greyish-white, and each of its eyes is surrounded by a prominent ring of naked, dark greyish-red or greyish-white skin (2).

The male and female galah are virtually indistinguishable, except by the colour of their eyes, which are dark brown in males and red to pinkish-red in females (2) (3) (5) (6). Juvenile galahs have a greyish wash on their underparts, and reach full adult plumage at about a year old (2).

The galah has long, rounded wings and a short, square tail. Unlike other Cacatua species, it has a swift, powerful flight, with full rather than shallow wing beats (2). Its distinctive plumage means the galah is not easy to mistake for any other cockatoo (2), although it has occasionally been known to hybridise with other species (2) (7).

Three subspecies of galah are recognised (2) (5) (6). Cacatua roseicapilla albiceps differs from Cacatua roseicapilla roseicapilla in its larger size, whitish rather than pink crest, and warty red rather than greyish-white eye ring, while Cacatua roseicapilla kuhli has paler plumage and a shorter crest (2) (5).

The calls of the galah include a distinctive high-pitched, metallic screech described as ‘chill-chill(2) or ‘chi-chi(7). It also uses harsh screeching notes in alarm (2) (3).

Also known as
pink-and-grey cockatoo, red-breasted cockatoo, roseate cockatoo, rose-breasted cockatoo.
Synonyms
Eolophus roseicapilla, Eolophus roseicapillus.
Size
Length: 31 - 38 cm (2)
Weight
c. 360 g (3)
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Galah biology

A highly sociable species, the galah is frequently seen in large flocks that may number up to 1,000 individuals (2) (3). Huge flocks come together to roost (7), often performing noisy acrobatics before settling down for the night (2) (3), and outside of the breeding season large groups may gather to feed. These groups often mix with other cockatoo species (2).

The galah typically feeds on the ground (2) (5), where it gathers a range of seeds, from cereals to grasses (2) (6) (7). It also takes a range of other foods, including berries, buds, flowers and insect larvae (2). Although this species may potentially help to control certain weeds, it can also do considerable damage to crops (2) (3) (7).

In hot weather, flocks of galahs may spend much of the day sheltering among trees and shrubs (3) (7). This small cockatoo is well adapted to the hot, arid conditions of inland Australia, being able to tolerate high temperatures and considerable periods of dehydration. The galah produces concentrated urine to minimise water loss, and is also able to rehydrate by drinking salty water (6).

Galahs mate for life (2) (7), and the male displays to the female by strutting towards her, bobbing and waving his head and raising his crest while giving soft calls and clicking his bill. The male may also perform acrobatics in the air (2). In the north of its range, the galah typically breeds between February and June or July, but in other areas it usually breeds from July to December, or even to February (2) (7).

The female galah lays between two and six white eggs in a hollow in a tree, usually a eucalypt (2) (6). The galah has a habit of stripping bark away from around the entrance to the nest (2), and is the only species of cockatoo known to line its nest with leaves (6). This species may also sometimes nest on cliff ledges. Many pairs of galahs often nest close together (2).

Both the male and female galah help to incubate the eggs (2) (7), which hatch after about 22 to 26 days (6). The young galahs leave the nest at about 46 to 60 days old (6), but may continue to be fed by the adults for several more weeks (2). The survival rate of young galahs is quite low (2) (7), but individuals that survive can potentially live for over 40 years (2).

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Galah range

The most widespread cockatoo species (6), the galah occurs across most of Australia, including on some offshore islands (2) (7). It has also been introduced to Tasmania, where it was first recorded breeding in 1925 (2).

The galah’s range has expanded across Australia during the last century, and now the only area in which the species remains uncommon is the Western Desert region (2).

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Galah habitat

The galah occupies a variety of habitats, including woodland, shrubland and grassland (2) (5) (6). It also adapts well to urban areas, parks, pastures and agricultural land, but tends to avoid dense forest (2) (5).

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Galah status

The galah is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Galah threats

The galah is a widespread and abundant species, and is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (8). Over the last century, its range and population have increased, probably due largely to the spread of agriculture, which has created new areas of suitable habitat and has provided abundant food sources for this species (2) (6) (8). The galah has also benefitted from artificial drinking pools and troughs (2) (6) and adapts well to urban environments, and its numbers may have been supplemented in some areas by the release of captive birds (2) (7).

Although it is protected in some parts of its range, the galah is often considered to be a pest and may be culled in some areas (2). This colourful, playful species is a popular pet, and a large number are kept in captivity (2) (6).

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Galah conservation

The galah is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any international trade in this species should be carefully controlled (4). However, there are not known to be any other specific conservation measures currently in place for this colourful parrot.

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Find out more

Find out more about the galah and its conservation:

More information on conservation in Australia:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Coverts
Small feathers concealing the bases of larger flight feathers, usually on the wings or tail.
Hybridisation
Cross-breeding between two different species or subspecies.
Incubate
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Larvae
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Juniper, T. and Parr, M. (1998) Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. Pica Press, Sussex.
  3. BirdLife International (2011) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.
  4. CITES (October, 2012)
    http://www.cites.org/
  5. Forshaw, J.M. (2010) Parrots of the World. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  6. Cameron, M. (2007) Cockatoos. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
  7. Birds in Backyards - Galah (October, 2012)
    http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Eolophus-roseicapillus
  8. BirdLife International - Galah (October, 2012)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=1396
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Image credit

Galah at waterhole  
Galah at waterhole

© Don Hadden / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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