Class: Aves — birds
Order: Psittaciformes — parrots
Family: Psittacidae — parrots, cockatoos, macaws, lories
Genus: Eolophus (Bonaparte, 1854)
Sometimes placed in genus Cacatua; in the wild, regularly hybridizes Cacatua sanguinea and C. leadbeateri.
Species: Eolophus roseicapilla (Vieillot, 1817) — Galah
Subspecies: Eolophus roseicapilla roseicapila (Vieillot, 1817) — Western Australia
Subspecies: Eolophus roseicapilla albiceps (Schodde, 1989) — eastern Australia
Subspecies: *Eolophus roseicapilla kuhli (Mathews, 1912) — northern Australia
*Recognized by some authorities (e.g., Gill and Donksker 2019) but not others (e.g., Johnstone and Darnell 2018).
Sources: Engelhard et al. (2015), Joseph et al. (2016), ITIS (2019), Johnstone and Darnell (2018), Gill and Donsker (2019)
Rose or Rose-breasted Cockatoo (Marchant and Higgins 1999; Black et al. 2018)
Cacatua roseicapilla (Marchant and Higgins 1999)
Male: 345 g (12.2 oz) (Rowley 1990; Rowley and Boesman 2019)
Female: 311 g (11.0 oz) (Rowley and Boesman 2019)
For Western Australia birds, Johnstone and Storr (1998) report slightly lower average weights: male, 327 g (11.5 oz); female, 290 g (10 oz).
35-36 cm (14 in) (Johnstone and Storr 1998; Rowley and Boesman 2019)
75 cm (30 in) (Marchant and Higgins 1999)
Cockatoo of medium size. Crest short. Ring of pinkish-white or pinkish-grey wrinkled skin around eye, raised and featherless; said to be helpful in distinguishing subspecies. Bill off-white to pale gray; has greenish wash in some populations. Legs and feet light to dark gray. Sexes similar, except eye color—dark brown in male, pink to red in female (Rowley 1990; Johnstone and Storr 1998; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Rowley and Boesman 2019). Subtle differences in appearance among subspecies (see Engelhard et al. 2015, Table 1).
Wings, back, and tail gray. Face, neck, and underparts saturated pink. Crest white or pale pink (Johnstone and Storr 1998; Pizzey and Knight 2012; Rowley and Boesman 2019). Undertail dark gray. Young hatch with sparse pink feathers; full feathers grow by 4 weeks old (Marchant and Higgins 1999).
Most of Australia, including Tasmania and other offshore islands (Engelhard et al. 2015; BirdLife International 2018).
Occurrence in inland areas expanded after European settlement, due to clearing of native vegetation for cereal crops and provisioning of water for livestock (Saunders et al. 1985; Rowley 1990; Johnstone and Storr 1998; Gammage 2009). Additional range expansion due to escape from aviaries (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union 1984).
Occurs in a wide variety of open habitats with trees: woodlands and forests (especially eucalyptus), grasslands/savanna. Less commonly, shrublands, beaches, and mangroves.
Adapts well to agricultural lands and pastures/livestock areas, as well as suburban parks, gardens, sports fields, golf courses, etc. (Johnstone and Storr 1998; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Engelhard et al. 2015; Rowley and Boesman 2019).
Least Concern (as of Feb 2019) (BirdLife International 2018)
Appendix II (as of Feb 2019) (UNEP 2019)
Protected as a native species of Australia under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 (Department of the Environment and Energy 2019b).
Populations in the Wild
Global population not yet studied. Regarded as one of Australia’s most widespread and abundant birds. Population trend: increasing (Engelhard et al. 2015; BirdLife International 2018).
Threats to Survival
Illegal trade (Cameron 2007; Vall-llosera and Cassey 2017)
Heat stress/illness resulting from climate change (McWhorter et al. 2018; Xie et al. 2019)
Hit by motor vehicles when feeding by roadsides (Rowley 1983; Marchant and Higgins 1999)
Hatching and fledging success rates relatively high (Rowley 1990; Rowley and Boesman 2019).
When food is abundant (summer), feed twice a day (morning and evening). When food is scarce (winter), forage most of the day. When possible, rest in trees near feeding areas between foraging bouts, which last 30 min to 5 hr. Drink in afternoon (or more often during hot weather). Fly to roost in evening, often calling loudly. Roost communally in large trees, except breeding pairs, which roost near tree hollow (Rowley 1990; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Rowley and Boesman 2019).
Range over large distances in search of food and water. May fly long distances from roost to foraging areas. Some individuals nomadic while others resident. Nomadic individuals leave stable home ranges of breeding pairs and form flocks elsewhere. Juveniles disperse widely; join locally nomadic flock by autumn of second year (also see Fledging) (Rowley 1983; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Rowley and Boesman 2019).
Gregarious. Found in pairs, small flocks, or large (1,000 individuals) to very large flocks (infrequently, over 2,000 individuals). Rarely found singly. Active, noisy, conspicuous. Gather where food or water is abundant. Form feeding hierarchies, with large males being dominant. Several pairs may fly to foraging areas together. Complex fission–fusion social system comprised of breeding pairs, juvenile flocks, and local nomadic flocks (subadults or nonbreeding individuals); all feed together (Rowley 1990; Johnstone and Storr 1998; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Scarl and Bradbury 2009; Rowley and Boesman 2019).
Agonistic Behavior and Defense
Aggressive behavior uncommon among adults; more frequent among juveniles. Galahs compete for food, water, and space. Breeding pairs defend nest hollow; otherwise, pairs allow other Galahs to perch in same trees. Compete with other cockatoos for nest hollows. To defend nest hollow, a pair will call and attempt to displace intruders. If not successful, bite intruder on the foot, screech, gape or spar with bill, and chase intruder. Also sit upright, raise crest, and extend wings, sometimes rocking forward and calling. Mob potential ground predators; appear to confuse aerial predators (raptors) by generating a “swirling tornado flock” of hundreds of individuals (Rowley 1990; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Johnstone et al. 2013a,b).
Flight call has two notes: chet-chet, chee-chuh, chill-chill, or similar. Alarm call is a short, harsh screech. Additional calls given while perched (Pidgeon 1981; Rowley 1990; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Rowley and Boesman 2019). Individuals recognize one another by contact call (Rowley 1990). Vocalizations and vocal behavior differ between males and females (Scarl 2009; Scarl and Bradbury 2009).
In visual displays, body and crest feathers raised or sleeked (Marchant and Higgins 1999).
Mainly eat seeds of grasses, cereal grains, cultivated crops, and herbaceous plants. Also fruits, berries, nuts, roots, young shoots and leaves, flowers, and insects and their larvae (Smith and Saunders 1986; Rowley 1990; Johnstone and Storr 1998 [Western Australia]; Marchant and Higgins 1999).
Typically feed on ground in flocks of 10 to 1,000 individuals (Rowley and Boesman 2019); also feed in foliage (Marchant and Higgins 1999).
Raptors (e.g., Wedge-tailed Eagle, Peregrine Falcon) (Rowley 1990)
Domestic and feral cats (Rowley 1990)
Strong, fast flier; can fly at least 70 kph (40 mph). Only glide when landing. Use short flights to move between tree branches and feeding patches. Walk is a slow, rolling gait (Rowley 1990; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Rowley and Boesman 2019).
Relationship with Humans
Considered a pest by farmers that grow cereal (e.g., wheat, barley, oats) or oilseed (e.g., canola, safflower) crops. Hunting by farmers permitted in some areas. Galahs may damage young eucalyptus trees and some grasses by taking new growth for nesting (Allen 1950; Rowley 1990; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Cameron 2007; Rowley and Boesman 2019).
Popular cockatoo among birdkeepers. Eggs or birds commonly taken for legal trade among Australian states. Pets sometimes released into wild, resulting in genetic mixing among subpopulations/subspecies (Marchant and Higgins 1999; Rowley and Boesman 2019).
Breeding and Parental Care
Long-term monogamous pair bond. Nest solitarily or close to several other pairs. Courtship behavior includes preening of mate and selection of nest site. Nest is a bowl-shaped depression lined with freshly collected eucalyptus leaves, typically located in tree hollow (unique among cockatoos). Less commonly, nest in caves, crevices, cliff-faces, or other unusual holes (only if tree hollows not present). Frequently reuse same nest site in successive years. Egg laying late July through September, with replacement clutch laying extending through mid-November (Western Australia); earlier in northern tropics. Eggs laid 2 to 3 days apart. Male and female share all aspects of parental care: nest building and defense, egg incubation, and care of young (Smith and Saunders 1986; Rowley 1990; Johnstone and Storr 1998; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Rowley and Boesman 2019). See Johnstone and Storr (1998) for egg dimensions, description, and plate images.
Females: 3 years old (Rowley 1990)
Males: 2 or 3 years old (Rowley 1990)
In the wild, both sexes may not be able to secure a mate or tree hollow until 4th year (Marchant and Higgins 1999).
In managed care, pair bonds may form prior to reaching reproductive maturity (Rowley 1990; Marchant and Higgins 1999).
22 to 26 days (Rowley 1990)
Typically 4 eggs (minimum: 2; maximum: typically 6, rarely 7 to 8). Egg dumping (when a female lays in another female’s nest) reported (Rowley 1990; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Rowley and Boesman 2019).
Eggs laid 2 to 3 days apart (Rowley 1990).
Breed annually. Timing may be influenced by rainfall (Rowley 1990).
Weight of Egg
12-15 g (0.42-0.53 oz) (Marchant and Higgins 1999)
13.6 g (0.48 oz), on average [Manmanning, Western Australia] (Rowley 1990)
Weight at Hatching
About 5-6 g (0.2 oz) (Johnstone and Storr 1998; Marchant and Higgins 1999)
Nestlings remain in tree hollow for 7 weeks. Grow at different rates and fledge on different days (each at about 49 [range: 45-59] days old). Each young taken separately by parents from nest to crèche in nearby trees (reduces competition between younger and older siblings), where young are fed and learn to fly in a flock. When all siblings present in crèche, gather with other broods closer to feeding area. Young begin feeding independently by about 4 weeks after fledging, though parents may feed for an additional 2 to 4 weeks. Juveniles gradually disperse and separate from parents by about 14 weeks (also see Movements) (Smith and Saunders 1986; Rowley 1990; Marchant and Higgins 1999; Rowley and Boesman 2019; also see Rowley ).
In the wild: Not well studied. One Galah was recaptured 27 years after being banded (Department of Environment and Energy 2019a).
In managed care: more than 50 years (Rowley 1990)
- The common name, Galah, which is of Aboriginal origin, is now used in preference to the name given by Europeans, Rose or Rose-breasted Cockatoo (Rowley 1990; Gammage 2009).
- Galahs play while swinging upside down, sliding down wires, rolling down inclines, lying on back and manipulating objects with feet, etc. (Marchant and Higgins 1999)
- Bathe by hanging upside down from a branch in light rain (Rowley 1990).
- Resourceful foragers: undo stitches on bags that farmers use to package grain (Rowley and Boesman 2019) and pick out undigested grain/seeds from livestock feces (Rowley 1990; Marchant and Higgins 1999)
- Most breeding pairs remove a patch of bark from tree trunk (termed “scar”) near nest hollow; males appear to mark this area with eye and preen (uropygial) gland secretions (Rowley 1990)
- Very large flocks may weigh down power lines (Marchant and Higgins 1999)