Rose-Breasted Cockatoo (Galah)

Galah -Eolophus roseicapillus-, adult, on perch, Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria, Australia
Jurgen & Christine Sohns / Getty Images

The rose-breasted cockatoo, usually known in its native Australia as the galah, may be close to the perfect parrot species when it comes to suitability as a pet—at least for an owner who likes to play a lot with a pet bird. Extremely intelligent and enormously fond of humans, the bird readily can readily learn a wide vocabulary when trained diligently and is able to learn other complex tricks as well. As a native to the harsh conditions of central Australia, the rose-breasted cockatoo is also unusually hardy and free of many of the diseases and disorders common to other parrots.

Common Names

The rose-breasted cockatoo is also known as the galah, the galah cockatoo, the pink and gray cockatoo, the crimson-breasted cockatoo, the roseate cockatoo, and the galah parrot

Scientific Name

The taxonomical name for the rose-breasted cockatoo is Eolophus roseicapillus. There are three subspecies with slight color and size variations: Eolophus roseicapillus albicepts (the southeastern form),  E. r. roseicapilla (the western Austrailian form), and E. r. khuli (found across the northern part of Australia). 

Origin and History

The rose-breasted cockatoo is native to Australia, where it can be found in open areas over much of the country. The species is missing from only the aridest regions of the country, and it has also become self-established in Tasmania. Rose-breasted cockatoos are usually seen in large flocks, often in groups that also include sulfur-crested cockatoos. Rose-breasted cockatoos are a familiar sight even in urban areas—so much so that they are sometimes a nuisance. 

Rose-breasted cockatoos are actually more prevalent in settled areas because they eat cultivated crops and make use of artificial ponds and watering tanks for livestock. For farmers, these birds are sometimes regarded as vermin. 

Size

A mature rose-breasted cockatoo is typically 12 to 15 inches in length from the beak to the tip of the tail feathers. It normally weighs between 10 and 14 ounces. 

Average Lifespan

The rose-breasted cockatoo can live for up to 70 years in captivity, but the average lifespan is about 40 years. 

Temperament

Affectionate and friendly, the rose-breasted cockatoo has a reputation for being a loving pet. It is a sensitive bird, however, and requires quite a bit of attention and interaction from its owners. Those interested in owning a rose-breasted cockatoo should make sure that they have plenty of free time to spend with their new pet. This is a flock-dwelling bird by nature, and if its adopted human flock-mates ignore it, the rose-breasted cockatoo will become forlorn or angry. 

The Rose-Breasted Cockatoo Colors and Markings

Rose-breasted cockatoos have bright pink feathers on their chests, bellies, and the lower half of their faces. They have pinkish-white crests and gray backs, wings, and tail feathers. They have gray feet and horn-colored beaks. As is true of all cockatoos, the rose-breasted has a head crest that elevates instantly when the bird is frightened or excited.

Caring for the Rose-Breasted Cockatoo

Their bold colors and friendly personalities have made rose-breasted cockatoos increasingly popular as pets in recent years. Potential owners should be aware, though, that these are highly social birds that will regard their owners as members of the flock. Your bird will want to spend a considerable amount of time with you and will be a fairly high-maintenance pet. If neglected or even occasionally ignored, the rose-breasted cockatoo can become depressed and destructive. These birds may be much happier with another rose-beasted as a cage mate. 

The rose-breasted cockatoo is not a particularly loud bird, and it usually confines its noisy periods to early morning and early evening. These parrots need a lot of sound sleep in a dark, quiet place that mimics the safety of the roosting areas they prefer when living in the wild. Many owners find that covering the bird's cage at night reassures the birds. 

This is not a large parrot species, but the rose-breasted cockatoo still requires plenty of space. A cage 4 x 4 x 4 feet in size should be considered the minimum. 

Feeding the Rose-Breasted Cockatoo

Like all cockatoos, rose-breasted cockatoos are prone to weight gain, so make sure to monitor their fat intake. When fed too many nuts and seeds and foods with high-fat content, these birds can develop fatty tumors. 

When kept as pets, rose-breasted cockatoos are usually fed a balanced parrot mix containing seeds, nuts, dried fruits, and dried vegetables, but they should also be supplemented with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. Leafy greens such as Swiss chard, kale, Chinese cabbage, Romaine and other lettuces are excellent for this bird, as are root vegetables, peppers, zucchini, green beans, and sprouts. Allow them to eat fresh fruit regularly. Walnuts, almonds, and pecans can be used as training treats, but do not overfeed your parrot with high-fat nuts

Of course, fresh water should be available at all times. 

Exercise

Rose-breasted cockatoos are active birds and they need plenty of exercise to maintain their physical health. An owner should plan on giving this bird at least 3 to 4 hours of active time outside of the cage each day. Cockatoos have strong beaks and jaws, so it's important to provide plenty of safe toys made of wood or leather that allows them to exercise their jaw muscles and satisfy the natural chewing instinct. Toys are an important part of enrichment for these birds and changing them out regularly will keep them interested and teach them to play independently.  

Common Health Issues

Rose-breasted cockatoos are prone to some of the same diseases and nutritional disorders as other parrots and cockatoos. Some of the most common conditions include fatty liver disease, lipomas, psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), feather-picking and other forms of mutilation. 

But by far the most common problem with rose-breasted cockatoos is obesity. This is nearly always caused by too little activity combined with a diet that has too many calories. With plenty of exercise and a good, balanced diet, your rose-breasted cockatoo will be one of the healthier of all types of parrot. 

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

Parrots similar to the rose-breasted cockatoo include: