The Galah FAQ
Information about the Australian Rose-Breasted Cockatoo known as the Galah
I decided to compile my own Galah FAQ over 10 years ago and it is now up to its third edition here on Medium. I will continue to expand and update this FAQ in the hope it helps out people who are interested in keeping one of these wonderful parrots as a pet. I will cover Gender and Age questions, Breeding questions, Bird Behaviour and Care questions and finish up with the questions I am personally asked the most about — Feeding and Diet questions.
What other names exist for the Galah?
The Galah is also known as a Rose-breasted Cockatoo, Australian Rose-breasted Cockatoo, Galah Cockatoo and the Roseate Cockatoo
What is the scientific name of a Galah?
How old can a Galah live for?
In the wild a Galah will rarely live past 25 years, but in captivity, if well looked after a Galah can live for 40+ years — so you will have a friend for life.
How many types/species of Galah are there?
There are to my knowledge three major sub-species of Galah — Western, Eastern and Northern. The most popular variety in captivity seems to be the Eastern variety.
Gender and Age Questions
How can you determine the gender of a Galah?
The easiest way to attempt to determine the gender of a Galah is to look at the eyes. The males have a more dark, almost brown iris (area of the eye that surrounds the pupil) while the females have a lighter, pink iris. Other characteristics to help you determine gender are males seem to have a better ability to talk and females tend to sit on a perch with their legs apart more frequently than males.
How can I determine how old my Galah is?
Determining age is a little more difficult, but you can get an idea by again examining the eyes. The number of wrinkles around the eye (in the white area) is one way of aging a bird. Other ways include the number of layers on the beak and by looking at the feet. Generally, the more wrinkles around the eye, the older the bird.
What sounds does a Galah make and can they talk?
A Galah makes a fairly high pitched “Chet Chet” type sound when flying around in the wild. They do make a much louder screech when threatened, fighting or having fun. The Galah is a very clever bird which can learn to talk, or rather, imitate people’s voices. The male Galah seems to be much better at this than the female. The birds can also impersonate everyday sounds such as a whistle, a horn or a telephone ringing.
My Galah likes to nuzzle people’s hands when he’s petted on the head. Is this affection or is he just trying to help his beak shed or something?
My Galah “Pinkie” does this too. It’s definitely a sign of affection. You might also find your Galah is requesting a neck scratch or similar with this action.
Is it normal for my Galah to make grinding and sneezing sounds?
The Galah will grind it’s beak when they feel safe and relaxed, usually before they sleep. When a Galah goes to sleep, they will quite often turn their heads almost 180 degrees around and rest their head on their back feathers.
A healthy Galah will require around 10 hours sleep a night. A Galah will also sneeze when preening their feathers as a way to disperse the dust they have collected from their feathers so this is perfectly normal.
How can I stop my Galah from screeching in the mornings?
It is a natural behaviour for a bird to make noises when the sun rises, so the best method to controlling loud morning behavior is to cover the birds cage (using perhaps a large, inexpensive table cloth or similar) and if possible, move the birds cage away from windows or areas where the bird can see the day’s first light or hear the sounds of other wild birds outside. You could also consider darker window covers/curtains if moving the cage is not an option.
My Galah chews “everything” — what can I do?
Chewing is the natural method a Galah uses to keep their beaks in top condition. It prevents overgrowing and discomfort which will occur if the beak is not regularly used. Make sure their enclosure has some inedible objects to chew to keep them occupied. Try wooden perches, rope perches, plastic chain, old belts (buckle removed), and old shoe soles.
Why does my Galah chew it’s feathers?
I would firstly check the bird does not have mites — inspect under the wing feathers and if you see any tiny red mites, you will need a mite spray. If mites are not present, sometimes a Galah becomes bored with their environment and they find the practice of feather chewing a ‘fun’ thing to do.
Consider adding in some new play items in the cage that the Galah can chew and destroy with their beak like wooden toys (not painted) and hard plastic toys. I have heard of other bird keepers having lots of luck letting their birds play with cotton mop heads, and my Galah likes to chew on a rubber ball meant for large dogs.
There are other reasons a bird pulls it’s feathers out too, including lack of sunlight, poor diet, loneliness and some other frustrations. If you are not already, consider giving the bird a regular spray with COLD water and Apple Cider Vinegar — 2 teaspoons per cup of water — with a hand sprayer. Do not spray on exposed skin or near the birds eyes, so some care is needed here.
Another holistic approach is to mix some “Red Palm Oil” (please make sure it is CSPO — Certified Sustainable Palm Oil) or “Coconut Oil” in the birds seeds — about 1/4 of a teaspoon per bowl. If you think sunlight is the issue, consider moving the location of the cage so the bird gets at least 2–4 hours of direct sunlight on average, every day.
Why does my bird have a really bad attitude and bite me constantly?
Sometimes birds are testing their place in the hierarchy and are seeing if they can become the leader of the flock. The best thing to do each time a bird attempts to bite you is to move your hand which is holding them, so they then need to concentrate on balancing and forget the biting.
With my own bird, the feathers around it’s eye region tend to stand up before an aggressive action is performed, or it attempts to hold you with it’s strongest leg, so you may get some visual signs pre-warning you before the action occurs.
If the bird does manage to bite you, and yes it does hurt, please don’t hit or be aggressive to the bird. Do your best to not react in a painful way to the bite — because no reaction means no fun for the bird. Now tell the bird in a firm voice their action was bad and it’s now going back onto it’s perch. Proceed to put the bird back on it’s perch and each time it attempts to return to you, return it to the perch.
After a period of time, reward the bird for staying on it’s perch and finally return it to it’s cage or house. It will take some time to break bad habits. One thing to remember – NEVER let a bird climb onto your shoulder as this is the position of dominance and if the bird does reach there, in it’s mind it’s dominating you.
Edit: I was asked how I would approach biting behaviour with my own bird. While she doesn’t bite me much anymore, if she did I would say “No” firmly and then move her back to her perch and say “Down”. If she continued to show aggression, I would just leave her in her area until she has calmed down.
For any words/phrases to work, you must use them over time and with practice and repetition. My bird seems to respond well these words/phrases:
- “Up” — granting permission for the bird to sit on your arm or hand or indicate you are going to pick up or move the bird, perhaps out of danger or into a travel cage
- “Down” — asking the bird to get off your hand or arm and to move onto the perch area
- “Scratch” — my bird tilts her head into her chest and I can scratch her head for quite some time, she likes this lots
- “Shower” — which is the phrase to indicate I intend to clean her feather with a water mist sprayer
- “Shake” — she holds my finger with her foot like shaking hands (I did try to use other words for this but she responded well to that word, so be sure to try words until you find one that works)
- “Night Night”—she knows I am covering the cage for sleep when I say this
- “No” — for any behaviour that is unwanted, aggressive or dangerous
- “Hey Pinkie” — instead of “Hello” because she responded better to it
- “Bye Bye” — for when you are walking away to the area
Should I give my Galah a bath?
The Galah is quite cautious when it comes to water so I don’t really advise giving a bird a bath. A much better method is to either use a water bottle with a squirt nozzle and give them a misty spray so they fluff out or as my bird loves, being held in front of an air conditioner or enclosed fan for about 30 seconds to blow off the excessive dust.
I’ve just found a baby bird fallen out of the tree. What do I do?
Sometimes birds fall from the nest, either from inexperience, from sibling rivalry, or from the parents rejecting the bird due to sickness or other reasons we will never understand. Check the bird firstly for any obvious injuries like broken wings and legs, missing eyes or any cuts and bleeding.
Don’t try to fix the birds injuries yourself – it’s best a professional looks at the bird, but if it is bleeding, you can apply cornstarch or flour directly to the wound and take the bird to a vet or bird expert as soon as you can. Try to keep the bird warm and see if it will drink water from a teaspoon.
You can also try feeding it a few berries or a piece of arrowroot biscuit to see if it feeds. If the bird you have found has no visible injuries, you should still consider taking the bird to a bird expert or vet for a checkup to make sure there are no issues or illness.
Pay attention to how often the bird poops – if it’s clear and watery or if it’s more white and paint/glue like. Record if the bird makes any distressed noises. This information is useful to the bird expert.
How old does a female need to be to breed?
A female needs to be around 4–5 years old to be ready to breed. My Galah is a female and she has laid eggs in her sleeping box since she was 5 years old, even though there are no males or other birds that live with her. She usually lays a clutch of 2 or 3 eggs.
We purchased a breeding pair of Galahs and the first clutch of eggs hatched a month ago. All was well but we recently found one baby dead and the other badly injured. It appears the male bird did this — why did he become so savage?
You really need to separate the male bird from the female bird once the babies are born. In the wild, the male bird does not perform any nesting or parenting duties and he basically just maintains his territory, visiting various nests in his territory to breed. When babies become a certain size, he will see them as a threat and often will do horrible things, even to his own offspring — such as throwing them out of the nest, biting off their wings or even killing them.
Feeding and Diet Questions
What foods will a Galah like to eat?
In my experience, a Galah really enjoys eating berries, nuts and seeds — and fresh corn which seems to do something which makes them more aggressive. They will also enjoy eating the corners of your toast crusts (with no butter and spreads).
What foods does a wild Galah eat?
In the wild, they are known to eat grasses, leaf buds, flowers such as Gravillias and Banksias, seeds and on the occasion, insects for extra protein.
How often should I change my birds water?
I believe it is essential a Galah has fresh water changed every day. If you have more than one water source (or at least two water bowls) you may be able to extend this to every second day depending upon how messy your bird is.
What kind of seeds are best to feed my Galah?
I feel it is best to try to stick with Parrot seed mixes — even though your Galah will absolutely LOVE Sunflower seeds and would be happy to eat nothing but these. One seed mix I have had a lot of success with is Bird Munchies Gourmet Parrot Blend Seed Mix. I recommend this seed mix over most of the other brands because it does not contain ‘filler’ seeds like Sorghum (a round brownish/red seed), Barley or Cracked Corn — most pet birds do not consume these seeds. For this reason, I would not consider any plain label bird seeds.
What food treats can I offer my Galah?
Try not to give too many treats as your bird will be more likely to reject its seeds, berries etc. so I try to limit it to only on weekends. I try to give a protein treat and a dairy treat — and I will sometimes give a flower treat when certain flowers are in bloom. When offering treat foods, you can measure them using a teaspoon and I never give more than a rounded teaspoon (not heaped) worth at a time.
My birds favorite treats are hard boiled egg, soft shredded wheat (like Weet-Bix), a big chicken bone (with no meat, gristle is ok), unsalted peanuts in their shells and a square of hard yellow low-fat cheese. For flower treats, I only offer Banksias and Gravillias as you must be careful because giving the wrong flower type can poison your bird. For something fun, try giving the bird a few long pieces of cooked spaghetti (no sauce or seasonings).
Why can’t I feed my Galah just sunflower seeds?
While the birds love them — it will fatten them up and in excess may cause health problems due to their high oil/fat content over time. Ideally, the diet of a Galah should not be more than 20% sunflower seeds (roughly 12–15 seeds per day).
Can I feed my Galah fresh fruit, vegetables and grain based products?
Each day, it’s a good idea to make sure your bird eats something fresh. I have found some birds may not like much fruit at all — so don’t worry too much if they do reject it. You can try the following:
- Fresh Fruits: Orange and Grapefruit segments; a peeled Fig; segments of Banana; Passionfruit; berries like Raspberries, Strawberries or Blackberries (my bird does not like strawberries but others birds do); Pear and Apple pieces (no core or seeds), Paw Paw (Papaya)
- Vegetables: Kale; small Corn cob; Spinach; Broccoli; Carrot; Capsicum (Bell Peppers); Squash; Parsley
- Grain based foods: wholegrain bread crusts; arrowroot biscuit; plain unsalted popcorn; cooked spaghetti (no sauce or seasoning); cold oatmeal (made with water); soft Weet-Bix (shredded wheat)
Can I give my Galah other drinks other than water?
I recommend only letting them drink water and to change the water daily or every second day, depending on the mess.
What foods are bad for my Galah’s health?
I would never feed the following foods to a Galah as they can make a bird very sick or even kill them: avocado; the hard seeds/pits from fruit; onions; garlic; tomato leaves and stems (the FRUIT is OK), rhubarb leaves (stalks are ok but I would avoid); dried/raw beans (COOKED Beans are OK in moderation); any food that has spoiled, has mold or is a fungus like mushrooms; chocolate and sugary sweets; raw meats; raw eggs; alcohol; caffeine; potato chips and other salted snacks; cream, ice cream and other dairy products (except for Hard Yellow Cheese and Low Lactose Yogurt in moderation); cured/salted meats; sodas, cordials and juices.
Note that the above list is far from exhaustive. If you are interested in reading more on this subject, I can highly recommend reading this informative page on the The Caique Site — a site dedicated to the Caique species of Parrot — but this information is appropriate for all Parrot species.
Why can you only give a treat the size of a rounded teaspoon?
It’s important to remember that the crop size in a Galah is about the capacity of a rounded (not heaped) teaspoon, so it is a good idea to never feed them more than this amount when offering treats.
How often do Galahs eat during the day?
Galahs will generally graze during the day and eat small amounts whenever they feel the need. I have noticed my bird will eat a little more frequently in the morning compared to the rest of the day.
My bird already eats one of those bad foods and they seem ok..
Being a responsible owner, you would never feed your bird the foods listed as potentially lethal from bird experts. I would suspect the bird is vomiting or having other issues at night or when you are not watching. No one wants to wake up and see a bird on the bottom of the cage, so please don’t continue to do this.
But my Galah really likes to eat chocolate..
Please don’t feed your birds chocolate. It contains sugars and theobromine, the compound that makes consumption potentially lethal for many animals including cats and dogs. If you’re really lucky, your bird will only have to suffer through diarrhea and/or vomiting. A small amount of chocolate can be fatal to a bird, before which they’ll have to endure painful seizures before their death. Again, please be responsible owners and don’t feed these kind of things to your pets.
Why do beans have to be cooked? What about snow peas?
Uncooked beans and legumes (including snow peas) contain lectin and phytic acid which when consumed by birds can give adverse affects such as vomiting and diarrhea. I personally would not risk giving these to my bird raw. I have read sugar snap peas are fine for birds to eat raw as long as they don’t consume the pea pods but I have not attempted to feed these to my own bird.
I’ve observed wild cockatoos eating seeds from my plum tree, so there are obviously fruit seeds that these birds like. Right?
I’ve read that plums are fine to eat but not the pits, as they contain traces of cyanide, just like in apple seeds. For another reference other than the one listed in the question “What foods are bad for my Galahs health?”, refer to Parrot and Conure World, which is also a great bird resource site.
I have found your FAQ really helpful as a new owner. Thanks for taking the time to put up your information. I look forward to reading any additional advice.
You are most welcome. I only wish for the best to anyone who chooses the responsibility of becoming a Galah owner; and I want to share as much factual information on the subject as I can here in this FAQ. I will answer any questions posted in the comments section as soon as I am available to. Just keep in mind I am not a vet, a bird expert or an avarian doctor, just an enthusiast and active Galah keeper – so always check your bird regularly with a trained expert.
If you feel it’s worthwhile, please leave any comments you have about your experiences with Galahs or about this story. Thanks very much for reading.