Galahs are the most abundant and familiar of Australian cockatoos and inhabit most of Australia in timbered habitats, usually near water.
They are unmistakable with their rose-pink and grey colouring and pale pink crown.
These birds spend much of the day sheltering from the heat in the foliage of trees and shrubs and in the evening, huge noisy flocks of birds congregate and roost together for the night.
The birds make loud screeching or small “chitting” noises and can mimic and impersonate other sounds and human voices.
Galahs feed in noisy flocks on the ground, eating seeds and grasses and cultivated crops making them agricultural pests in some areas.
These social, highly intelligent and adaptable birds originally lived only on the edges of semi-arid areas but their range has spread due to land clearing.
Galahs are becoming more abundant near human habitation because of the availability of food and water.
In western New South Wales on the Castlereagh River there is a little town called Gulargambone (population 400) whose community have capitalised on the abundance of galahs in their area and use sculptures of the birds as a tourist attraction.
The standing, flying and upside-down sculptures are constructed of old corrugated iron and are two metres square. The 40 sculptures are attached to metal poles and line the road leading into town.
Like many birds, galahs form pair bonds for life and only take a new partner if the other bird dies. In the wild their life expectancy is 30 years. Pairs display affection by preening each other’s facial feathers.
They nest in tree hollows lined with leaves and both sexes incubate the eggs and care for the young.
The mortality is high, with 50 per cent of chicks dying in the first six months.
Galahs feed their chicks by regurgitating food and young birds are fed for several weeks after they leave the nest.
Young galahs gather in crèche trees during the day and live in large nomadic flocks until they are four years old and ready to breed themselves.
Galahs are strong flyers and engage in aerial acrobatics and they also exhibit an engaging clownish personality.
This behaviour is so distinctive that people clowning around are often referred to as being “a bit of a galah”.
So if you come across these charismatic birds –and they’re very common in our region – take a minute to watch and enjoy their antics.
* Hunter Bird Observers Club website can be found at:www.hboc.org.au