Avian Jaws

Australians say “silly galah” instead of “silly goose.” But it is boredom that makes them act silly.


A Galah is a Cockatoo. There are white ones, red ones, and black ones in Perth.

Human encroachment has helped some kinds of galah, and devastated others. They nest in tree trunks in hollows only a little bigger than the birds. That means that very large Carnaby’s Galahs need very large hollows, so they are headed for extinction because humans destroy trees.

White Galah Plague in the city of Perth, W. AustraliaI mentioned in an earlier post that I had missed the chance to photograph two galahs on a fence near me, but knew there would be other opportunities. The white galahs like human activities so much that the birds are becoming a real pest, and are crowding out the large Carnaby’s galah.

You can see white dots all over the place in this photo. The foreground was covered with the birds until an approaching car forced me to step off of the road and frightened away one bird, which caused the massive flock to take off. If I had only waited ten minutes, the birds would have been back again, but I was heading for a walk along the side of Lake Joondalup.

Destructive Cockatoos

All galahs are very destructive. An expert told me that the birds used to have to gather food all day in the Australian bush, but now they can get enough food in ten minutes. So now they go around using their powerful beaks to destroy everything, so some farmers shoot them on sight.

All birds are protected in Western Australia except from Aborigines and farmers, so galahs tend to treat humans with contempt. I was driving a bus one day full of old ladies, and went to park off the road. There was a galah on the verge that refused to waddle any faster away from the bus, so I had to take about a minute to drive up behind it!

Unexpected Benefits of Destruction

I don’t hate them. I had a pecan tree that grew too tall for me to harvest the nuts safely. So I waited each year for the galahs to turn up. Their beaks are strong enough to crack even macadamia nut shells, but they weren’t interested in food – only in destruction. So they invaded the tree till their weight made each branch bend down, and ripped all the nuts off the branches. All I needed to do was harvest the nuts from the ground below the tree.

Only an occasional shell had been pierced, so I ate these nuts first.

Galah destroying a toy

I saw the chance to photograph a pink galah in a cage – being destructive – in a farmer’s market in Wangara.

Notice first the bits of white plastic littering the floor of the cage. These are the remnants of a white toy.

Now the galah is busy destroying a new green and pink toy. You can see a green bit of plastic that is looking the worse for wear.

The charge of the purposeful galahThe galah heard the shutter of my camera click. Why should it bother to waste time on a cheap plastic toy when there was an expensive camera lens to rip out?! The vandal headed very purposefully towards my camera.

JawsYou may wonder why the next picture is blurred. Two reasons… The bird was charging fast, and I moved my camera back before the destructor was able to get is beak near to his target.

Carnaby’s Cockatoo

Carnaby's GalahAn expert told me that it is too late to save the Carnaby’s Cockatoo because they are all too old to breed. They could be expected to live for another 80 years before they died of old age. That is because of the lack of suitable hollow trees for breeding.

While clearing ground for a major road, workers recently discovered a colony of Carnaby’s cockatoos five thousand strong. I’ve no idea if there are any young ones in the colony, but the colony won’t exist after the road goes through.

The Carnaby’s Galah is so enormous that only a wedge-tailed eagle dare attack it – or humans that can’t even fly unassisted. However humans aren’t out hunting them – just destroying their habitat.

What can you expect? Humans are destroying their own habitat – but not by global warming, as you’ll see in my next post.

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