A flock of foraging galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla) can be a formidable sight, with up to a thousand birds descending on fields, gardens and parks in search of food. But what do galahs eat? And does the diet of a galah change according to the different seasons?
Keep reading as we find out all about the diet of galahs, both as pets and in the wild.
Galahs are herbivores – seeds and grains they find on the ground form the largest share of their diet. They often forage in large flocks, and will eat fruits, nuts, berries, grasses, green shoots, leaves, and bark from trees.
Galahs are popular pets, kept in aviaries and cages, and fed on a diet of grains, pellets and mixed fruit and vegetables.
In the wild, they will eat any grains and seeds that they can find, including gathering on agricultural fields or raiding farmers’ grain stores of recently harvested crops. This has led to them being considered pests by some sectors of society, who seek ways to discourage their presence.
Keep reading to find out what galahs do and don’t eat in the wild and what crops are most at risk from being targeted by large numbers of these highly active pink and grey cockatoos.
Galah feeding on the ground, NSW, Australia
In the wild, galahs seek out grains and cereal crops, as well as fruit seeds, nuts, berries, and green leaves and shoots from trees. Occasionally they also eat insect larvae, particularly during the breeding season when they may need additional sources of protein.
They have a reputation among farmers as being a major agricultural pest, boldly ravaging fields of growing cereal crops and even raiding stores and decimating supplies of harvested grain.
Pet galahs need a mixed and balanced diet that is not too high in fat or sugar and mimics their natural diet as closely as possible. Food that is commonly offered to galahs that are kept as pets includes millet, sprouted seeds, grasses, vegetables, greens, cooked legumes, fruits and supplements in pellet form.
A pair of wild Galahs, also known as the pink and grey cockatoo or rose-breasted cockatoo, visiting a backyard feeder
Fruits that are popular choices for galahs, both in captivity and in the wild include citrus fruits, bananas, berries, papaya, pears, and apples. Pomegranates are thought to be a particular favourite. Wild galahs have been observed to eat the seeds of paddy melons and wild bitter melons.
Galahs are almost exclusively herbivores. Their diet consists of grain, seeds, fruits and nuts, and only on the very rarest of occasions will they eat insects, especially larvae and grubs, when they need supplementary protein, for example when raising young or laying eggs.
A pair of Galahs foraging on the park lawn
Galahs are mainly ground-feeders, and spend prolonged periods as part of a larger flock scouring the forest floor, cultivated fields or garden lawns for seeds and grains. Galahs are quite resourceful when it comes to finding food, occasionally even picking through the dung of cattle and horses for undigested seeds to eat.
Wild galahs may occasionally be spotted around backyard feeders and garden bird tables. However, as they prefer to forage at ground level, it is more common to spot them in larger, more open fields and grasslands, where they can feed on seeds that they find in natural abundance.
A pair of Galahs at a feeder with a Magpie
During the summer months, galahs feed twice a day: in the morning and again in the early evening. In winter months, when food supplies may be more scarce, it is not unusual to see flocks of galahs constantly grazing all day long to take advantage of any food they come across while foraging.
In winter, huge flocks of wild galahs spend long hours searching on the ground for seeds, berries and grains. Winter grasses and thistles are also eaten in colder months.
In summer, cultivated fields growing cereal crops, particularly barley, wheat and oats, are targeted by galahs. Fruits and new shoots sprouting from the seeds of trees are also eaten during the spring and summer months.
In the wild, baby galahs are raised and fed by both parents, with the mother or father regurgitating food they have eaten into the chick’s mouth. Foods include partly digested seeds and grains, and some small insects or larvae.
Baby galahs raised in captivity can be fed with a special pellet mix, combined with finely chopped fruit or vegetables, for example carrots, corn, spinach, or apples. Weeds such as milk thistle can also be offered, and some softened grains should also be added.
Close up portrait of a Galah
It is not recommended to offer commercially produced bird seed to wild galahs, as doing so may have a negative impact on their health as well as potentially attracting rodents and other pest species, and spreading weeds. Galahs will be naturally attracted by a presence of native shrubs and bushes, as well as shady mature trees, and this kind of habitat will present them with plenty of natural foods to forage for.
Food offered to captive galahs should closely mimic what they would find in the wild, including cereal, grain, seeds, nuts and seasonal fruits. When kept as pets, galahs benefit from specially prepared pellet mixes with low fat content. Sprays of millet and other grasses are a popular supplementary treat for pet galahs.
Close up of a Galah feeding on grass
Common sense dictates some of the main foods to avoid ever feeding to galahs, including chocolate, alcohol, anything containing caffeine, and also avocado. It is best not to feed galahs too many sunflower seeds or other foods with a high fat content, foods containing refined sugars or dairy products should also never be offered.
Galahs drink water, and only water. They are observed to drink just once a day.
If your garden is planted with native and wild grasses and shrubs, this is a good start to attracting a flurry of noisy pink-feathered visitors. Galahs nest in cavities, so a strategically placed nest box on a tall tree may offer a suitable option for nesting, particularly if suitable food sources are nearby.
A water source for drinking and bathing, and the presence of mature trees and the shelter they offer may also help to attract galahs.
A Galah taking a drink of water
Galahs are considered a good choice of bird to keep as a pet if you have plenty of time to dedicate to their care. They are sociable and intelligent and will respond to and interact with human contact, but require a high level of input and company, due to their natural tendency to live as part of a large flock.
In the wild, for many, their reputation is less positive. For many farmers, galahs are not a particularly welcome sight, when they flock to forage on their fields of wheat, barley, oats and other crops. Galahs can be thought of as destructive birds, and can quickly strip crops, foliage and any new green shoots on trees and plants.
However, if you have wild patches in your garden that are growing for the benefit of attracting wildlife rather than as a commercial crop, you may have a different view. The arrival of a flock of these bold, colourful parrots would certainly be a memorable sight and fascinating to watch in action!
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