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Galahs

Galahs in Aviculture

eastern galah pair

I hope by my writing this that you the Australian Aviary Life reader may gain a greater understanding of this little “Aussie Icon”, a long lived bird, that is mostly overlooked in our day to day lives, but a bird that makes a wonderful and fascinating aviary subject and is one of the more endearing pets of the Cockatoo family! I have kept galahs for most of my life.

Decriptions

I will only give descriptions of the ‘three” generally recognised subspecies here, (you are already “spun” aren’t you, a Galahs just a Galah after all isn’t, read on!) I will supply photos to back up my descriptions! I have yet to complete studies on the whole of the group of Galahs across this country. There could be as many as four types alone in Western Australia, I have heard that the Galahs from the Alice Springs area in the Northern Territory are a “different bird” yet again, and in front of me as I “type” I have a photo on a calendar of Galahs at a watering point that shows attributes of both Elophus roseicapillus and E. r. assimilas and probably E. r. kuhli, see more below. After the descriptions of each recognized subspecies I will go into some of my aviary management and breeding information. The three Galah subspecies described below form part of a flock of eight to ten different subspecies of Cacatuan type White Cockatoos that I keep and Breed!

Roseicapillus
These are the most often seen and recognised subspecies of the Galah in Eastern Australia, as with the following Galah subspecies this bird is generally grey on the back, wings and tail, rump is a paler shade of grey, then they have a “rose” pink chest and lower abdomen, in this subspecies alone the lighter pink cap has a true differentia ional line separating the cap from the darker pink chest/cheeks below. This “line” can be easeirly seen in field or aviary! This attribute gives the Eastern Galah an appearance of wearing a “cap”! This subspecies have a reddish pink periophthalmic eye ring which in mature birds is much more noticeable, the cock birds have the larger more pronounced eye ring! In my opinion this subspecies has the “richest pink” chest colouring of all three of the Galah subspecies I will deal with here! Some decades back a lot of trapped Roseicapillus where sent to the South West of WA, (Perth Metro Area) some “escaped” and are now causing “grief” by hybridisation with the local population of

Assimilas
Weights Cock Average 386 Grams  Hens Average 366 Grams(NB all weights I refer to in this article are from my birds and are “hyped-up” captive weights and in no way reflect the weights of similar birds that may be measured in the field!. Assimilas, a similar sized bird to Roseicapillus but usually much paler in general grey plumage, the crests of this subspecies is much fuller, “almost the shape” of the Umbrella Cockatoos (Cacatua alba) crest,  and is a richer pink than the Eastern birds. The richer pink of Assimilas flows down the back of the neck, therefore it doesn’t have the same “capped affect” of Roseicapillus. The really discerning difference is that these South West, West Australian birds is that they have a large “blue grey” periophthalmic eye ring, which becomes very pronounced in the cockbirds, see photos attached! This eye-ring on the cock bird can almost appear like a group of “warts” on some individuals!I have found with my birds that some individuals of this subspecies show pink feathers in the rump as well. A point worth making here that there seems to be a lot of “inter subspecies hybrids”, between  Roseicapillus and Assimilas coming onto the market and sold off as “Western Galahs” so beware and do you research before buying so called “Western Galahs”, (Assimilas)I have seen many examples of these “inter subspecies hybrids” sold to unsuspecting Eastern States aviculturalists. These people are usually “shattered” when they see Assimilas in the flesh! Also beware there is a Roseicapillus type Galah that inhabits the “Upper Centre” of  Western Australia, I wont go into “him” in this article. I have found a market for my pure Assimilas hens for those that wish to maintain the purity of the pure Assimilas series Lutinos! Weights Cocks Average 416 Grams Hens Average 407 Grams

Kuhli
Is the last of the three most recognised forms of the Galah is markedly the smallest subspecies and hails from the “tropical” top end of the country, being smaller they appear to be a petite little bird, and in fact they are. In these birds again the periophthalmic eye ring is a stand out feature, it is ovate and a very pronounced red, below that eye ring this Galah features a prominent white “massacre” area, obviously a feature that has adapted for reflecting Tropical Glare (again see photo). In keeping with the “petitness” of this subspecies they have a smaller crest, and the pinkness from the back of the head flows down narrows then “flares” out onto the shoulders of these birds! Weights Cocks two birds 338 & 362 Grms Respectively and Hens again two adult birds395 & 282 Grams Respectively, second bird was younger. One immature hen 228 Grams. This subspecies has become very popular with some aviculturalists in recent years, and is being bred accordingly. You are probably “reeling from information overload” by now, too find out more please come to the inaugural Hunter Valley Avicultural Societies Convention being held on the 13th & 14th of October 2007, as I have been invited to do a presentation on White Cockatoo Subspecies there!

assimilis head photokuhli head photoeastern galah head photo

My Aviary Management

My Galah breeding aviaries are 5.4 metres long 0.9 metres wide and 2.1 metres high all have full partition walls of corrugated iron sheeting, 1.8 metres covered at the top at the rear, with the remaining 3.6 of the aviary roof open ie covered by mesh! They all form part of a complex of Cockatoo aviaries that face North and are serviced by a 1.2 metre wide safety flight at the front! The safety flight has a full length 1.2 metre high flat iron wall too help in the exclusion of unwanted “creatures”!This construction requires me to walk the full internal length of the flight to service the food container and nest box/log mounted under cover at the rear. This walk in process allows me interaction with the pairs on every aviary visit! The aviaries are supplied with a front and rear mounted perch each mounted across the flight about 500mm off the roof and the same off either end. Water is supplied in a stainless steel dish on the floor and greens are given into a mesh tray mounted on the full height full width door at the front of the aviary, also mounted through this door above the greens tray is a set of swinging coop cups for sprouted seed feeding! Across the top of the complex is a rigid 25mm poly pipe sprinkler/mister system, this can help with heat relief in the Summer, (as most people are aware cockatoos like nothing better than a shower in the Summer, none less than the Galahs) the whole complex is set on a complete weldmesh-reinforced concrete slab!

The fact that I have a front attached “safety flight” allows each pair, whilst I am servicing their particular flight too “escape” and fly the 13.8 metres of its length for a bit of extra exercise if they want, the pair of Kuhlis are very adept at this but usually fly too the gate on the Western end, then when it’s time to “return home” they fly too and land on the end of the aviary gate which is narrower than the “safety flight” and quickly “dive” back onto their back aviary perch, and issue a defiant “Chit”! Whereas the Eastern and Western birds often go East and engage in some “banter” with the cockatoos at that end! Although often as not the Western Pair will fossick through anything lying about on the floor of the walkway. My three breeding pairs representing the three subspecies are housed adjacent to each other Eastern, Northern and Western from East to West, this is to facilitate visitor comparison display purposes.

Feeding

I feed my galahs on a basic diet of small seeds, like budgie or canary mix, supplemented with greens ex the paddock ie weeds, also included in their diet as with my other cockatoos are Paddie Melons! I also them with a good sprouting mix this is increased toward breeding season then increased again further when they have chicks in the nest!

Breeding

kuhli pairFrom June, usually the coinciding with the NSW Queens Birthday Long Weekend, (This is close to the Winter Equinox, thus from there on the days are becoming longer) I supply extra eucalypt branches for the breeding pairs too strip then line their respective nests with, some pairs will fill the nest almost completely up with leaves and small twigs! Chewing of perches increases about this time as well, this replicates the chewing activities seen in Galahs in their natural state at this time of year! For nests I had until recently used a vertically mounted log about 200mm inside diameter (I use my outstretched hand as an indicator when checking the internal size of a log for suitability), and the logs where about 600 to 700mm deep, the bottom was covered with a galvanised metal plate This log was traditionally mounted on an empty 60litre drum, this replicated an idea passed onto me by the late Bob Lynn, (of Black Cockatoo fame) in our one and only meeting in 1983. Bobs’ idea and quite rightly so, by mounting your nest logs low, was that you as the aviculturalist can view proceedings in the nest, ie see that eggs and chicks are in order at a quick glance! But last season I used PVC nest boxes as made by John Galea, with utmost success, these nest boxes are mounted to the rear aviary wall and come supplied with an inspection door! I am attempting to get everything clear of the aviary floor!

My birds nests are monitored at least once a day from June on and checked at least twice daily once egg laying has commenced, same as per hatching and day to day chick inspection! The log/nest box is never removed from the aviary as in their natural state the nesting chamber is the focal point for a bonded pair all year round getting regularly checked! Also the nest chamber is never cleaned by me, a spray with a “safe” insecticide, pre breeding season is all I do, maybe ‘chuck’ in some more rotted wood dirt/hardwood saw dust and supply the Euco leaves/branchlets! The Kuhli Galahs are the first to breed, usually laying from the first week in July, the Eastern and Western birds then start to lay from around the 16th to 22nd of August, all the chicks take around 26 days to hatch and all hatch with a vermillion pink down, and soon start to pin feather. I record dates that each egg is laid and write the date on the egg with a “lead” pencil and that notation usually survives the distance until hatching! As you are “armed” with the knowledge of incubation time you can predict with approximate accuracy the chicks hatching time! Not only do I diary note the “egg laid” date but I project also the hatching date into my diary!I place the closed band leg rings on or about ten days of age which coincides with the chicks eyes just starting to “split” and the wing pins pushing through!

Some Diary Notes Western and Eastern Galahs 2006/2007

  • 14-08-06 Eastern Galahs one egg
  • Eastern Galahs three eggs 14-08? 16-08? 18-08? (I had been interstate and could not oversee the egg laying period)
  • 20-08-06 WA Galahs one egg
  • 26-08-06 WA Galahs 2nd egg? Unusual
  • 30-08-06 WA Galahs 3rd egg   4 days
  • 08-09-06 Dairy note top of page-East Galah chicks too hatch from now
  • 09-09-06 One Eastern Galah hatched Fed Sprouts & greens (Winter Grass & Capeweed) Cleaned all aviaries on concrete changed water greens all, almonds all aviaries only -I have other holding cages as well and I do not change my management program because birds are breeding! ie I still clean the aviaries as per normal!
  • 10-09-06 2nd E.Galah hatched. Photo taken of 24hr old East Galah chick and just hatched. 16Grms 12Grms
  • 14-09-06 Dairy note top of page-WA Galahs chicks too hatch
  • 15-09-06 Photo 2 baby Eastern Galahs Weighed 25 Grms 5 days 47 Grms 6 Days about 36 Hrs Diff.s
  • 16-09-06 One WA Galah chick starting too “pip” parents allopreening on back perch 10am  
  • 17-09-06 Pulled little bit off shell of WA Galah about 5pm-chick still vocal and tapping strongly
  • 18-09-06 Hen WA Galah did not want too leave nest on inspection this morning just after 8am I could here chick calling strongly Hen lifted enough at App. 9-30am to see rolling around and healthy
  • 19-09-06 Check of young WA Galah well fed egg tooth still attached Fed Sprouts, corn on cob, barley grass seed and euco nuts. Eastern Galah chicks growing well 10 Days will have to CR tomorrow
  • 20-09-06 CR90 oldest Eastern Galah chick-bit small
  • 22-09-06 2nd WA Galah chick was hatched this morning could be 2 Days old Eastern Galah with ring No.90 OK but over knee joint relocated ring
  • 23-09-06 WA Galahs growing well Checked Eastern Galahs both good and growing
  • 26-09-06 CR Second Eastern Galah chick JMU91 leg/foot grey Both chicks healthy and growing
  • 27-09-06 2nd Eastern Galah ring OK
  • 03-10-06 CR Oldest WA Galah JM40
  • 04-10-06 CR WA Galah JM40 OK
  • 05-10-06 CR second WA Galah JM64 needs checking
  • 08-10-06 CR second WA Galah JM41 (NB) Second ring 16 Days Old

NB As you can see from my diary notes some of my “expected” management practices can vary a day or two!

assimilis pair I usually “pull” chicks for hand raising at around a month of age when they are covered in a combination of pin feathers and feathers to self regulate body temperature to some degree, from that age they quickly learn to accept either crop needle or “spoon”, I use a “spoon” attached to a crop type needle attached to a syringe. With the use of a crop needle/syringe combination you are in total control of how much hand raising mixture each individual chick is receiving! At this age the Galah chicks would be started off on 30ml of mixture which soon is increased to forty ml. The chicks are fed three times daily from this stage and start to wean and look for sprouted seed and vegetables/greens towards the end of November into early December and are nearing independence by Christmas time. This coincides with the same period as their “natural cousins”!  That is the time when the “begging/whining youngsters are in the “crèche” situation! (The Kuhlis’ are weaned earlier due to early hatching).When you go to feed the chick and its’ crop is jamb pack full of food like sprouted seed and greens/vegies you know that its’ well on the way to independence! I would think that Galahs may be enticed to breed from about three years of age, but birds are like us “humans” and breeding starting times may vary with individuals!NB For the purposes of this information I have “stuck” with the original scientific name of the Western Galah in Assimilas.

Galah Hybrids

galah major crossSome of the Galah hybrids I know of or have seen.

  • Galah X Short Billed Corella (Captive bred and can occur naturally)
  • Galah X Eastern Long Billed Corella
  • Galah X Major Mitchell Cockatoo (many of these birds bred in the 1970s at Griffith in NSW)
  • Galah X Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
  • Galah X Quarrion (Cockatiel)

 

For further reading and veiwing, the following are good sources of information:

Videos

  • White Cockatoos-Land of Parrots set (as well as the derivative cockatoos of Australia)
  • Geo production available from ABK publications

Books

  • A Guide To White Cockatoos -Chris Hunt-ABK Publications
  • Australian Cockatoos – Stan Sindel and Robert Lynn
  • Australian Parrots – Joseph M Foreshaw
  • Parrots of the World – Joseph M Foreshaw
  • The World of Cockatoos – Karl Diefenbach
  • Parrots: Their Care and Breeding – Rosemary Low
  • Also excellent reading is the Handbook of West Australian Birds Volume One-WA Museum By Ron Johnstone and G.M. Storr

galah eggs in nestgalah chick in container