The Galah /ɡəˈlɑː/, Eolophus roseicapilla, also known as the Rose-breasted Cockatoo, Galah Cockatoo, Roseate Cockatoo or Pink and Grey, is one of the most common and widespread cockatoos, and it can be found in open country in almost all parts of mainland Australia.
It is endemic on the mainland and was introduced to Tasmania, where its distinctive pink and grey plumage and its bold and loud behaviour make it a familiar sight in the bush and increasingly in urban areas. It appears to have benefited from the change in the landscape since European colonisation and may be replacing the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo in parts of its range.
The term galah is derived from gilaa, a word found in Yuwaalaraay and neighbouring Aboriginal languages.
Galahs are about 35 cm (14 in) long and weigh 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 the colour of the irises; the male has very dark brown (almost black) irises, and the female has mid-brown or red irises. The colours of the juveniles are duller than the adults. Juveniles have greyish chests, crowns, and crests, and they have brown irises and whitish bare eye rings, which are not carunculated.
Galahs are found in all Australian states, and are absent only from the driest areas and the far north of Cape York Peninsula. It is still uncertain whether they are native to Tasmania, though they are locally common today, especially in urban areas. They are common in some metropolitan areas, for example Adelaide, Perth 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 grassy areas.
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.
Aviary-bred crosses of galahs and Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos have been bred in Sydney, with the tapered wings of the galah and the crest and colours of the Major Mitchell’s, as well as its plaintive cry. The Galah has also been shown to be capable of hybridising with the Cockatiel, producing offspring described by the media as ‘Galatiels’. Galahs are known to join flocks of Little Corellas (Cacatua sanguinea), and are known to breed with them also.
“Galah” is also derogatory Australian slang, synonymous with ‘fool’ or ‘idiot’. Because of the bird’s distinctive bright pink, it is also used for gaudy dress. A detailed, yet comedic description of the Australian slang term can be found in the standup comedy performance of Paul Hogan, titled Stand Up Hoges. Another famous user of the slang “galah” is Alf Stewart from Home and Away who is often heard saying “Flaming galah!” when he is riled by somebody. The Stella angry bird is a Galah.
The Australian representative team of footballers which played a series of test matches of International Rules Football against Irish sides in the late 1960s was nicknamed “The Galahs” (see “The Australian Football World Tour).