What a Galah!

Story written by Robert Lastdrager

Through 262 days in lockdown my daily break from the constant deluge of covid related news had been to sit on our balcony high in the eucalypt canopy of Melbourne’s northeast suburbs. Each day my unsophisticated focus slowly began to identify a kaleidoscope of beautiful native birdlife in our immediate neighbourhood.  

Amongst the she oaks and the large yellow box flowering in our front yard, a staggering assortment of colours and species parade. Calm and regal King Parrots, powerful swooping currawongs, immaculate rosellas, bossy rainbow lorikeets, occasional marauding groups of sulphur crested cockatoos, and a reserved pair of bronze winged pigeons are all regulars.  

Apart from the odd skirmish all the birds seem to tolerate each other and understand the pecking order, as well as the timing of the modest but steady supply of seed delivered by the residents of the house. There was one bird however who understood the score better than the rest.  

A few weeks ago, a lone galah appeared and ingratiated himself with his fearless attitude, determined waddle and bullying swagger along the balcony rail. Soon he was landing twice a day and scattering our collection of feathered friends in all directions with real malice and gluttony. I decided to deny him the lion’s share and wean him off the smorgasbord for a while. 

Days later, as I arrived home from a rare outing to the shops with my hands full of carry bags I was ambushed by a flurry of pink and grey feathers on a steep dive from the balcony toward me. The young galah swooped down to alight with precision on my shoulder, with his wings held aloft for effect as if he were Simone Biles landing a perfect 10.  

I instinctively turned my head away to protect my eyes and ear lobes, wondering what had caused this unscripted tumble. I stood frozen with amazement and anticipation as this ‘wild’ bird began an astonishing tirade of confident, charming, and confiding chatter in my ear closest to his chiselled beak.  

“Hello Paul! Watch out! It’s cold outside! Scratch?”  

He then proceeded to blow a succession of unmistakeable ‘raspberries’, raising his small crest in mock surprise in time with each fart sound as if to say, ‘It wasn’t me!’.   

Now I’m no Dr Doolittle, and I cannot claim to ever having charmed the birds out of the trees, but the intensely surreal feeling of having a wild bird land on one’s shoulder took my breath away in that moment. I managed to remain calm with ‘Paul’ on my shoulder chatting as I rang my kids in the house above. They emerged onto the balcony to witness their Dad doing the best pirate impression complete with shoulder parrot.  

On that day Paul the galah well and truly blew his cover and now declares his arrival every day with a ‘Hello’ or a ‘What’s up Doc?’. He strides about chatting until an obliging human mollifies him with a small handful of seed, while his wild partner waits patiently in the nearby branches until the coast is clear. She has partnered well, choosing quite the man about town, who can charm the humans out of their boxes and beguile them into dispensing food. So, if you’ve lost Paul the Galah, please don’t worry, he’s as free as a bird. He just needs a little more work on his sentence structure. 

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