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Eolophus roseicapilla AF.jpg
A male galah in Tasmania
Conservation status
Scientific classification
  • E. r. roseicapilla
  • E. r. albiceps
  • E. r. kuhli
Bird range galah.png
Galah range (in red; all-year resident)
  • Cacatua roseicapilla Vieillot, 1817
  • Eolophus roseicapillus Sibley and Monroe, 1990

The galah ( Eolophus roseicapilla), also known as the pink and grey cockatoo or rose-breasted cockatoo, is the only species within genus Eolophus of the cockatoo family. Found throughout Australia, it is among the most common of the cockatoos. With its distinctive pink and grey plumage and its bold and loud behaviour, it is a familiar sight in the wild and increasingly in urban areas. It has benefited from the change in the landscape since European colonisation, and appears to be replacing the Major Mitchell's cockatoo in parts of its range.


The term galah is derived from gilaa, a word found in Yuwaalaraay and neighbouring Aboriginal languages.


The galah is about 35 cm (14 in) in length, and weighs 270–350 g (10–12 oz). It has a pale silver to grey back, a pale grey rump, a pink face and breast, and a light pink mobile crest. It has a bone-coloured beak, and the bare skin of the eye ring is carunculated. It has grey legs. The sexes appear similar; however, adult birds differ in the colour of the irises; the male has very dark brown (almost black) irises and the female has mid-brown or red irises. Adults are more brightly coloured than juveniles. Juveniles have a greyish breast, crown, and crest, and brown irises with whitish non-carunculated eye rings.

Distribution and habitat

The galah can be found throughout Australia, and is absent only from the driest areas and the far north of Cape York Peninsula. Though the presence of the galah has been documented in Tasmania at least since the 1840s, it remains unclear whether it is indigenous to that island. It is common in metropolitan areas such as Adelaide, Perth, and Melbourne, and abundant in open habitats that offer at least some scattered trees for shelter. The changes brought 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.

The galah is often found in flocks of 10 to 1,000 individuals. These can be mixed flocks, the members of which may include Major Mitchell's cockatoo, the little corella, and the sulphur-crested cockatoo. The galah readily hybridizes with all of these species (see below). Flocks of galahs often congregate and forage on the ground for food in open, grassy areas.


The classification of the galah was difficult. It was separated in the monotypic genus Eolophus, but the further relationships were not clear. Obvious morphological similarities are shared 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, the ancestors of the galah, the cockatiel and Major Mitchell's cockatoo were thought to have 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[examples needed] to start with.

It fell to the study of Brown & Toft (1999) to compare the previously available data with their mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequence[clarify] 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 has not completely lost its ability to produce an overall pink (Major Mitchell's) or pink and grey (galah) body plumage, while already being light in colour and non-sexually dimorphic. The significance of these two (and other) characteristics shared by the Cacatuinae had previously been explained away in earlier studies by strict application of parsimony on misinterpreted data.[clarify]


Three subspecies are usually recognised. Slight variation exists in the colours of the plumage and in the extent of the carunculation of the eye rings among the three subspecies. The south-eastern form, E. r. albiceps, is clearly distinct from the paler-bodied Western Australian nominate subspecies, E. r. roseicapilla, although the extent and nature of the central hybrid zone remains undefined. Most pet birds outside Australia are the south-eastern form. The third form, E. r. kuhli, found right across the northern part of the continent, tends to be a little smaller and is distinguished by differences in the shape and colour of the crest, although its status as a valid subspecies is uncertain.


Female Galah Outside Nest
Female E. r. albiceps displaying her crest outside her nest in Tasmania, Australia

The galah nests in tree cavities. The eggs are white, usually two to five in a clutch. The eggs are incubated for about 25 days, and the male and female share the incubation. The chicks leave the nest about 49 days after hatching.


Living in captivity, galahs can reach up to 80 years of age when a good-quality diet is strictly followed. They socialise adequately and can engage playfully in entertainment activities to support the overall very intelligent nature of the bird. In their natural habitat, galahs are unlikely to reach the age of 20 years, falling victim to traffic, predators such as the little eagle and black and peregrine falcons, and human activities in some agricultural areas. Like most other cockatoos, galahs create strong, lifelong bonds with their partners.


Cockatoo hybrid -Flying High Bird Habitat, Australia-8a
A galah × corella hybrid

The galah readily hybridizes with several species, including the sulphur-crested cockatoo, little corella, Major Mitchell's cockatoo, and the cockatiel. Galah x cockatiel hybrids are often referred to as "galatiels". Aviary-bred hybrids of galah x Major Mitchell's cockatoo 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 the plaintive cry of the latter.


  • Brown, D.M. & Toft, C.A. (1999): Molecular systematics and biogeography of the cockatoos (Psittaciformes: Cacatuidae). Auk 116(1): 141–157.
  • Flegg, Jim (2002): Photographic Field Guide: Birds of Australia. Reed New Holland, Sydney & London. ISBN: 1-876334-78-9
  • Forshaw, Joseph M. & Cooper, William T. (2002): Australian Parrots (3rd ed.). Alexander Editions. ISBN: 0-9581212-0-6
  • Frith, Harold James & Watts, Betty Temple (1984): Birds in the Australian High Country. Angus & Robertson, London. ISBN: 0-207-14464-8

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