W hat are you breeding bloody Galahs for? Was a question asked one day by a former Zebra Finch breeding workmate! My immediate gut reaction was who is having a go at who here, but I guess that would be the reaction to most people about to read this article.
Read on and I will endeavor to impart my acquired knowledge on a cockatoo that is not only monospecific but one that I find very interesting - a bird that most Australians see everyday of their lives and take so much for granted, yet is a bird very much prized in most overseas countries as an aviary inhabitant. Yet here in its own country it can be despised as a pest bird and accordingly exterminated by various means including shooting and poisoning. Both methods of control result in fields littered with corpses.
Although the Galah is not prized in its own country, I feel it makes one of the best pet cockatoos going. I have often had people ask me if I had a young Major Mitchell's Cockatoo Cacatua leadbeateri suitable as a pet. Most people believe that because a particular cockatoo is "pretty" to look at that it will have all the necessary attributes of a good pet. Invariably I attempt to talk the person out of taking on a Mitchell's as a pet as, often, the Major does not make a confiding, good talking pet. Plus, once their breeding hormones kick in they will turn very spiteful to the owner. Handreared Mitchell's I have kept can be a real handful. When you attempt to breed them, they are extra savage and usually come straight at your face. As they have been hand-reared, they show no fear of their human keeper.
Hand-raised Galahs, on the other hand, can be aggressive, but do not seem to be generally as bad as the
Majors, although I have one particular breeding cock that hit me from behind once and took the beanie clean off my head. But if you want a Galah as a pet, he can learn to imitate human speech, usually very fluently, and will learn to whistle. Galahs are always ready for a scratch around the head with their little face feathers fanned out to greet you. There are exceptions in both species, I will have to admit.
Back when I was only a kid I had a Galah that had a clipped wing. He was a real mate (buddy) for a kid, I suppose you could say. He used to do a lot with me, a talking, whistling, very easily handled bird that loved to ride around on my head and shoulders. From that perch he would lean down to have his head scratched. In addition to these attributes he was a free roaming bird, but he had a cage with the door open where he slept at night and he could find food. He often even went for horse back ride with me when I got the milking cows and their calves in "of an afternoon. I also remember he was in trouble on more than one occasion for pruning my mother's flowers. This Galah was a real little character.
At one particular time the whole family had gone off to town. On arriving home I was unable to find the Galah. I eventually found him floating face down in a half-filled 44 gallon drum of water that we had been using as a reservoir during concreting. He must have climbed up the outside and lost his balance on the lip of the open topped drum or had attempted to reach the water for a drink. I was fairly grief stricken at the time. It was a sad day and obviously this was a preventable tragedy, had the drum been covered or emptied.
I am always reminded of his sunflower-smelling breath whenever I smell the same on another parrot. Even today I have several Galahs that will greet me on my aviary rounds with fanned out faces, ready for that head scratch that they have become accustomed to.
The Unique Galah
I guess most people know very little about the life cycle of Galahs or for that matter even care. Have you ever
stopped and taken a good look at Galahs?
How many people realize that the Galah is unique amongst our Australian cockatoos and apparently shares one of its features with only one of the Indonesian cockatoos. Some of you will say "Oh Yeah! They are pink and grey." And that's absolutely true. But there's more.
How many of you realize that the Galah species itself consists of several different subspecies, with noticeable vanations in color, distribution, plumage type including crest type, eye ring color, as well as body size, and that the same bird is now being developed in several mutations in Australian aviaries.
Galah hybrids I have seen were crosses with Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Western Galah X Western Long-billed Corella, plus I once had a hen Little Corella X Galah (this bird had the reddish iris of a Galah hen). I have seen other captive examples of this latter hybrid, plus several of the other Galahs hybrids mentioned, as well as having seen the Little Corella X Galah hybrid cockatoo free flying as l will described later.
I had a friend with just a few pet birds in a backyard aviary who unintentionally produced Galah X Sulphurcrested Cockatoo hybrids. He had a 30 plus year old Sulphur hen that was a family hand-me-down pet. He had mis pet for a great number of years then, at some stage, someone gave him a road victim cock Galah with a damaged wing. Thinking they may make good buddies, they were housed together. The urge to reproduce for this pair was so great that they burrowed into me earthen floor under a garbage bin that their seed tray was mounted on to lay their first clutch - and they went on to produce several such broods. The chicks produced by this pair are very beautiful hybrids, the pink of me Galah parent is replaced by a brilliant yellow/orange color and me crest is close to the same color but is similar in shape to that of the me Galah. The back of these hybrids can vary from pied grey/white to a dilute grey. The chicks are covered in an orange down as opposed to the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo's lemon yellow and the color
that the Galah chick possesses. These hybrids are intermediate in size between the two parent species. There have been many examples of this particular type of hybrid produced across the country. Although I do not condone hybridization generally, I do not really have a problem with crossing of two of our more common cockatoos, as long as it is controlled.
Examples of some of the other Galah hybrids have been observed in the wild as well. I know from personal observation that inter-species hybridization does occur in nature!