G just had to be for galah as to me he is one of our most beautiful and mischievous birds. I know I was going to do a series on parrots but couldn't resist including him or her right here.
The galah derived its name from 'gilaa' a word found in Yuwaalaraay and neighbouring aboriginal languages.
Galahs are about 35 cm (14 in) long and weight 270-350 g. They have a pale grey to mid-grey back, a pale grey rump, a pink face and chest. and a light pink mobile crest. They have a bone-coloured beak and the bare skin of the eye rings is carunculated. They have grey legs. The genders appear similar, however generally adult birds differ in colour of the irises; the male has very dark brown (almost black) irises, and the female mid-brown or red irises. The colours of the juveniles are duller than the adults as can be seen in this photograph of an adult and young galah:
Galahs love to show off and you will often see them swinging and doing somersaults on light wires or in trees in suburban and country areas. I remember being up at Yanchep for a BBQ with our daughter and her hubby many years ago. It must have been close to mating season as there were several male galahs really showing off in the trees above where we sat. They were a treat to watch and you couldn't help but laugh at their goings on.
Galahs are found in all Australian states and it is still uncertain whether they were actually native to Tasmania, although they are locally common today, especially in urban areas. They are common in some metropolitan areas, for example, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne and common to abundant in open habitats which offer at least some scattered trees for shelter. The changes wrought by European settlement, a disaster for many species. have been highly beneficial for the galah because of the clearing of forests in fertile areas and the provision of stock watering points in arid zones. Flocks of galahs will often congregate and forage on foot for food in open grass areas. (We often see groups of them on road verges and even people's front lawns near where we live).
The classification of the galah was difficult. It was separated in the monotypic genus Eolophus but the further relationships were not clear. There are obvious morphological similarities between the galah and the white cockatoos that make up the genus Cacatua and indeed the galah was initially described as Cacatua roseicapilla. Early DNA studies allied the galah with the cockatiel or placed it close to some Cacatua species of completely different appearance. In consequence, it was thought that the ancestors of the galah, the cockatiel and Major Mitchell cockatoo diverged from the main white cockatoo line at some state prior to that grou's main radiation; this was indeed correct except for the placement of the cockatiel. Ignorance of this fact, however, led to attempts to resolve the evolutionary history and prehistoric biogeography of the cockatoos which ultimately proved fruitless because they were based on invalid assumptions to start with. It fell to the study of Brown & Toft (1999) to compare the previously available data with their mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequence research and resolve the issue. Today, the galah is seen, along with the Major Mitchell cockatoo, as an early divergence from the white cockatoo lineage which have not completely lost their ability to produce an overall pink (Major Mitchell) or pink and grey (galah) body plumage, while already being light in colour and non-sexually dimorphic. The significance of these two (and other) characters shared by the Cacatuinae had previously been explained away in earlier studies by strict application of parsimony on misinterpreted date. The galah and the Major Mitchell can produce off spring as seen below:
The galah has also been known to cross-breed with both the short-billed and long-billed corellas, the sulphur crested cockatoo and the cockatiel.
The galah nests in tree cavities. The eggs are white and there are usually two or five in a clutch. The eggs are incubated for about 25 days, and both the male and female share the incubation. The chicks leave the nest about 49 days after hatching. Like most other cockatoos, galahs create strong lifelong bonds with their partners. (A few years back (for at least two consecutive years) I saw a pair using a hollow in a gum tree near our local post office as a nest. They were there for some considerable time and you could tell they were feeding their young. They didn't appear to be there last year and I wondered if perhaps one of the pair had died. The same nest, at a different time, was also used as a nest by a pair of 28's (also known as Port Lincoln parrot in South Australia). They too seem to have disappeared. I still look, hopefully, each time we stop near the post office...just in case).
Pictures of galahs nesting: (1) A galah beside its nest on a gumtree (2) a galah inspecting its nest (and it appears one baby has hatched) and (3) baby galahs (not quite as handsome as their parents).
"Galah" is also derogatory Australian slang, synonymous with 'fool' or 'idiot' and because of the bird;s distinctive bright pink, it is sometimes also used for gaudy dress (I can't say I've ever heard it used that way though). The Australian representative team of footballers which played a series of test matches of International Rules Football (a combination of Aussie Rules and Irish football) against Irish sides in the late 1960s was nicknamed "The Galahs" (see "The Australian Football World Tour).
I know I have written a lot about the galah and shown lots of pics but I think this bird is much loved by most Aussies and hopefully others will also find it interesting as well.