Pink galahs selecting Araucaria seeds

on 1st January 2024

Eolophus roseicapilla, the pink galah / pink and grey cockatoo / rose-breasted cockatoo, are sighted often in Victor Harbor. They are protected in other Australian States except South Australia. Wong Kais often sees them along the Esplanade, Warland Reserve and Kent Reserve. On 14 September 2023 he saw small flocks of this bird feeding on grass panicles and selecting the Norfolk Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) seeds from the grass lawn. He was inspired by these birds to harvest the cotyledons of these seeds but was defeated miserably. Chisel, hammer and steel knife could not break through the seed wall. He decided to learn from the pink galahs by documenting them working on the seeds. Read to find out more about these iconic pine trees in Victor Harbor.

Image 1: A pink galah sitting on the tip of a Norfolk Island Pine, Araucaria heterophylla. Victor Harbor. 28 August 2023.
Image 2: A female galah, identified through its red iris, feeding on grass seeds.
Image 3: The handsome face of a male pink galah. The iris is black. Note the mesmerising periophthalmic (eye) ring.
Image 4: A female galah feeding on the flowers of a compositae (daisy) plant, probably the Capeweed Arctotheca calendula.
Image 5: A pink galah feeding on grass seeds.
Image 6: A galah reaching out for morsels found amongst the grass.
Image 7: The pleasing sight of a small flock of galahs busy feeding at Warland Reserve, Victor Harbor.
Image 8: A selection of freshly dispersed Araucaria heterophylla seeds and male cones on the ground. Some of the seeds seem to have been more exposed to the elements.
Image 9: Another lot of freshly-dispersed seeds and male cones amongst the grass.
Image 10: A big pile of fresh seeds and male cones.
Image 11: An Araucaria heterophylla seed that has its wings broken down.
Image 12: In typical cockatoo fashion, the galah uses a foot to assist in cracking the seed open.
Image 13: A potential food morsel.
Image 14: Another view of a galah handling its food with the assistance of a foot.
Image 15: The galah actively destroying the Araucaria heterophylla seed with assistance of a foot.
Image 16: The galah dislodges the cotyledon from the seed cover with help from its tongue.
Image 17: The remains of the seed coat after the galah was done with it.
Video: The pink galahs, Eolophus roseicapilla, picked and dropped Araucaria heterophylla seeds at a very rapid pace. Many of the seeds had the cotyledons already taken. Towards the end of the video the cockatoo raises it crest, probably in excited anticipation of discovering more food.

An abundance of freshly dispersed seeds could be seen under the trees in various spots around Victor Harbor. The galahs were not seen tackling them. Wong Kais theorises that freshly dispersed seeds have fully intact seed coverings which are difficult to break apart leading the galahs to select seeds which were dispersed earlier and had been subjected to some degrees of decomposition by the damp and cold. He plans to do a more focused study during his next trip to Victor Harbor.

All photos and video were taken by Wong Kais at Victor Harbor on 14 September 2023. Image 1 was taken on 28 August 2023.

References :

  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World © 1996 vol. 4
  3. Fleurieu Birds by Peter Gower © 2012

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