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Galah Cockatoo

Galah Cockatoo

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Species Organizations

National Audubon Society
Website: www.audubon.org
Cornell Lab of Orinthology
Website: www.birds.cornell.edu
The Avian Web
Website: www.avianweb.com

Classification
See Below
Scientific Name
Eolophus Roseicappilus
Other Common Names
Rose Breasted Cockatoo, Roseate Cockatoo, Rosies Cockatoo
Classification
The classification of the Galah was difficult. It was separated in the monotypic genus Eolophus, but the further relationships were not clear. There are obvious morphological similarities between the galah and the white cockatoos that make up the genus Cacatua and indeed the galah was initially described as Cacatua roseicapilla. Early DNA studies allied the galah with the cockatiel or placed it close to some Cacatua species of completely different appearance. In consequence, it was thought that the ancestors of the galah, the cockatiel and Major Mitchell's Cockatoo diverged from the main white cockatoo line at some stage prior to that group's main radiation; this was indeed correct except for the placement of the cockatiel. Ignorance of this fact, however, led to attempts to resolve the evolutionary history and prehistoric biogeography of the cockatoos, which ultimately proved fruitless because they were based on invalid assumptions to start with.

It fell to the study of Brown & Toft (1999) to compare the previously available data with their mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequence research and resolve the issue. Today, the galah is seen, along with Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, as an early divergence from the white cockatoo lineage which have not completely lost their ability to produce an overall pink (Major Mitchell's) or pink and grey (galah) body plumage, while already being light in color and non-sexually dimorphic. The significance of these two (and other) characters shared by the Cacatuinae had previously been explained away in earlier studies by strict application of parsimony on misinterpreted data.

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 hybridizing with the Cockatiel, producing offspring described by the media as 'Galatiels'.


Species Description
Galahs are about 35 cm (14 in) long. They have a pale grey to mid-grey back, a pink face and chest, and a light pink crest. The sexes appear similar, however generally adult birds differ in eye color; the male has a very dark brown (almost black) iris, and the female has a mid-brown/red iris. Typical birds are about 350mm long and weigh between 300 and 400 grams.


Habitat
Forests and woodlands.

Distribution
Galahs are found in all Australian states, and are absent only from the driest areas and the far north of Cape York Peninsula. They appear to have been self-introduced to Tasmania. They are common in some metropolitan areas, for example 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.

Captivity
Galahs are highly social and very long-lived; though they are sometimes kept as pets, this is not something to be undertaken lightly as they bond socially with their owners and may well outlive them, and like most cockatoos, are noisy and require a great deal of attention and care. Although they are generally considered one of the easier to keep species. They are more closely related to the cockatiel than to the white cockatoos that are more commonly seen as pets. Both male and female galahs are great talkers, but the male is thought to be the better talker. They're very loving and affectionate birds which form a very strong bond with their owner and like to think of themselves as 'part of the family'. However, they do like their privacy at times and are quite happy to simply be around the family rather than be handled all hours of the day.

Summary
Fairly noisy cockatoo with pleasant character; especially noisy when excited, but also during early morning and late afternoon; initially shy; wild-caught birds often extremely nervous; will then often only leave nestbox to feed; however young birds quickly become confiding; very hard chewers; regular supply of wood necessary; rotten wood and planks quickly chewed; colony system only possible in very large flight; trouble-free and not susceptible when acclimatised. Like other parrots, they have short tarsi but strong claws, and walk with a slow waddle, often using their strong bill as a third limb when climbing branches. They generally have long narrow wings used in rapid flight, with speeds of 70 km/h being recorded for some species. The black cockatoos, however, along with the Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, have shorted more rounded wings and a more leisurely flight.

The cockatoos have large bills which are kept sharp by rasping the two mandibles together when resting. The huge bills are complemented by large muscular tongues which help manipulate seeds inside the bills so that they can be de-husked before eating. During the de-husking the lower mandible applies the pressure, the tongue holds the seed in place and the upper mandible acts as an anvil.

The plumage of the cockatoos is less brightly colored than that of the other parrots, with species generally being either black, grey or white. Many species have smaller areas of color on their plumage, often yellow, pink and red, and usually on the crest or tail. A few species, like the Galah, have larger areas of color. In addition to their plumage many species have brightly colored bare areas around the eye and face, with the Palm Cockatoo having a large red patch of bare skin across the face. A few species exhibit sexual dimorphism in the plumage, with this being most pronounced in the Gang-gang Cockatoo and the Cockateil. Sexual differences in plumage are more common in the black cockatoos, but many cockatoos vary slightly in overall size and weight, with the males being on average larger. The iris color is often brown in adult females and differs from the black irises often seen in adult males, but this may not be totally reliable to identify the gender of a cockatoo.

Behavior: Cockatoos are diurnal, requiring daylight to find their food. They are not early risers, instead waiting until the sun has warmed their roosting sites before feeding. The 21 species are generally highly social and will roost, forage and travel together, often in large flocks. All species require roosting sites that are sometimes located near drinking sites, but many species may travel great distances between the roosting sites and feeding sites.

Cockatoos have several characteristic methods of bathing; they may hang upside down or fly about in the rain, or flutter in wet leaves in the canopy.

Calls and Communication: The vocalisations of cockatoos are loud and harsh. They serve a number of functions, including allowing individuals to recognize one another, warning others of predators, indicating individual moods, maintaining the cohesion of a flock and as warnings when defending nests. The use of calls and number of specific calls varies by species, some like the Short-billed Black Cockatoo have as many as 15 different calls, whereas others like the Major Mitchell's Cockatoo have far fewer. Some species, like the Gang-gang Cockatoo are comparatively quiet, but do have softer growling calls when feeding. In addition to vocalisations, the Palm Cockatoos communicate over large distances by drumming a dead branch with a stick. Cockatoo species also make a characteristic hissing sound when threatened.

Diet and Feeding: The cockatoos are versatile feeders and consume a range of food items. Seeds form a large part of the diet of all species; these are opened with their large and powerful bills. Cockatoos may feed either individually or in flocks that range in size from small to quite immense. The Galahs, corellas and some of the black cockatoos feed primarily on the ground, others feed mostly in trees. The ground feeding species tend to feed in flocks, which can wither feed in tight, squabbling groups where seeds are concentrated, or in more dispersed lines where the seeds are less concentrated and more widely distributed.

While some cockatoos are generalists taking a wide range of seeds, others are specialists. The Glossy Black Cockatoo specializes in the cones of Allocasuarina, often a single species, which it holds in its food and shreds with its powerful bill before removing the seeds with its tongue. Some species take large numbers of insects, particularly when breeding. The large bill is used in order to extract grubs and larvae from rotting wood. The amount of time cockatoos have to spend foraging varies with the season. During times of plenty, they may only need to feed for a few hours in the day, in the morning and evening, and spend the rest of the day loafing, but during the winter most of the day may be spent foraging. During hard times the cockatoos also display versatility in their diet, travelling widely in order to find food, feeding on more green plant material and in some species using their large bills to dig up corms.

Breeding: Cockatoos are monogamous breeders, with pair bonds that can last many years. They may also display site fidelity, returning to the same nesting sites in consecutive years. Courtship is generally simple, particularly for established pairs, with the black cockatoos alone engaging in courtship feeding. Established pairs do engage in allopreening, but all forms of courtship drop off after incubation begins, possibly due to the strength of the pair-bond.

Like most parrots the cockatoos are cavity nesters, nesting in holes in trees. In many places these holes are scarce and the source of competition, both with other members of the same species and with other species and types of animal. This competition is particularly intense amongst larger species.


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