thomas m wilson

Galahs and Play

April 22nd, 2007


This morning I was on my way into King’s Park when I looked up into an old Wandoo tree and saw this galah sitting above me. I stopped and watched him for a while, and took this photo. When I clicked my tongue a bit he became more interested and seemed to engage a bit.

Parrots originated in this part of the world. Cockatoos are part of the parrot lineage, and more than half of all cockatoos come from Australia. We have plenty of hard nuts to crack on our trees, thus the big, powerful beaks of these birds for cracking nuts open. Eolophus roseicapillus is the latin name for this species, but most Australians call them galahs. Australian slang uses the phrase ‘playing the galah’ to indicate that somebody is fooling around, and it is true that these birds love to play (ok, I admit that only salt of the earth Aussies use the term!).

Play is a sign of intelligence, and parrots are amongst the most intelligent of animals. They can live to 80 years old – older than many people! – and they do plenty of stuff in groups. For example, these galahs often keep their fledglings in ‘creches’ of up to a hundred youngsters. An evolutionary history of cooperation like this has helped direct their increasing intelligence. It also means that they readily develop strong relationships with others, be they cockatoo, or be they human.

As I looked up into the tree from a suburban street I saw a stranger, not a friend. But as I looked up into the tree from the street it was salutory to be reminded that another intelligence was looking down at me from the wild, and wondering what the hell I was doing standing there.

One Response to “Galahs and Play”

  1. Gary on April 26th, 2007 at 9:31 am:

    Lovely bit of natural history there. These are wonderful birds and one of my favourite photographic subjects. Along with pelicans, and stilts, and black cockatoos, and … ok.