The Galah is found throughout most of Australia, and these beautiful bright pink and grey birds have become an icon of our native bush. They live on inland plains with trees bordering watercourses but are also found in a wide variety of environments – including deserts, rainforests, mountain ranges, flat grasslands and coastal areas. With the drought many have become more nomadic and greater numbers are heading towards our greener coasts and urban areas to find food and water that is becoming increasingly scarce in the drier zones.
Galahs are gregarious parrots and are often seen in flocks of 30 up to 1000 where there is an abundant food source. Living in such large groups does have advantages, safety being the most obvious one, with a few birds watching out for danger while the rest of the flock is feeding or drinking. They are usually locally nomadic, heading off at dawn to range up to 15 km. to look for food returning to the flock at dusk. They are mainly seed eaters feeding on the ground gathering seeded grasses and herbs, flowers, leaves, wheat, sunflower seeds, corn, insects and grubs. They will head up into the trees to devour native fruits, nuts, blossoms, berries and seeds.
Because seeds make up a large part of their diet their beak has to be tough enough to crack open shells. It is also used to hold onto branches when climbing. The beak grows continually, and by chewing on hard material such as seeds and branches, a parrot can keep the size of its beak under control while keeping the cutting edge sharp. They have hard, rough tongues which move the food around in their beaks. They also have very dexterous feet and toes, with two toes facing directly forwards and two facing backwards on each foot, which helps them to hold food when eating and hang upside down to get at tasty food on the underside of branches.
Many young galahs are injured or die in their first summer while they are learning to fly on their own and this is the time when they often come into the care of WIRES, found concussed and often emaciated by a caring member of the public. Only 10 out of every 100 fledglings survive to their breeding age of 3-4 years old, but if they do, then they can live up to 60 plus years.
To help these wonderful birds and all our magnificent Australian Native birds survive, plant Australian native flowering trees, shrubs and bushes in your gardens and parks and encourage our councils to do the same. Have a bird bath in a safe spot in your garden filled daily with fresh water for them to come and drink and bathe. Leave hollow logs and holes in trees to be used as nesting sites and help these beautiful birds survive into the future.
Reference: Field Guide to the Birds Of Australia, Simpson & Day
Every Australian Bird Illustrated, Rigby
Complete Book of Aust. Birds by Readers Digest.