Lifestyle & Belief

Galahs fleeing Australian drought create havoc in outback town

BRISBANE, Queensland — A small outback town in the Australian state of Queensland has encountered an unusual flying hazard in the form of a raucous though delicately hued bird.

Thousands of pink-and-gray galahs have descended on the town of Boulia, in the far west of Queensland, looking for water and food as drought begins to bite, according to Australia's ABC.

More than 40 percent of Queensland is officially in drought, the ABC writes, and grazing pastures are shrinking while watering holes are drying up.

While graziers are struggling to keep their stock, Boulia residents are also feeling the effects.

The galahs — the most widespread and abundant of Australia's parrots, according to the Birds in Backyards website, and also known as the rose-breasted cockatoo — like to perch on powerlines in and around the town.

When they take flight, they cause the wires to crash together, leading to power outages and surges, the ABC wrote.

While the birds spend much of the day sheltering from the heat and sun in trees and shrubs, noisy flocks of birds congregate in the cooler evening hours before roosting together at night.

Boulia mayor Rick Britton told the ABC that up to 4,000 galahs and sulpher-crested cockatoos, another native species, had been roosting in the town over the past 10 weeks.

"Come 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., it's just a noisy wildlife sanctuary. I think the biggest fact is the galahs and cockatoos, they've just impacted in our shire in our township like never before. Because they all like to perch on our electrical overhead wires overnight and, if they take a flight during the night or when they take off early morning, they've been [causing] the wires to hit together and we've been having blackouts."

While the sulpher-crested cockatoos are protected in some Australian states, including Queensland, galahs are not.

However, Boullia has stopped short of calling for a cull of the creatures, which residents say are so noisy they wake up the town each morning.

Instead, energy provider Ergon has installed spacers to hold the wires apart, while the council has cut down trees and used a scare gun to deter the birds.

However, the ABC wrote, their efforts are so far in vain.

Still, Britton said, the dought was expected to break at some point and with it the attraction to his small town's vital infrastructure.