Galahs, Death and Country Roads
I recently had occasion to drive out to Karoonda, a small farming community in the Murray Mallee 65km north east of Murray Bridge. On the way one passes through wheat and sheep farming country with a little remnant vegetation on each side of the road. This mallee habitat is often surprisingly rich in birdlife.
The dominent species one observes along this road (and many others in the district) is the Australian Magpie. Little Ravens are also common as are Crested Pigeons. Flocks of Galahs are a common sight too, ranging in size from four or six through to hundreds.
Summer Road Toll
During summer, when the wheat trucks are carting freshly harvested grain, many Galahs are killed because they feed on the spilled grain on the side of the road. They gorge themselves on the bounty left by the trucks and are then sluggish in their attempts to fly out of the way. Because pairs bond for life, if one is accidently killed in this way, so, too, is the other of the pair eventually killed. The pair bonding is so strong that they stay with the dead one until they, too, fall victim to a passing truck or other vehicle.
Many other birds are encountered on this stretch of road. Mallee Ringneck Parrots cross the road like green and yellow arrows darting through the trees. Willie Wagtails flit to and fro catching the insects disturbed by passing vehicles. Welcome Swallows swoop across the road or skim the nearby paddocks looking for their meal. Red Wattlebirds and Singing Honeyeaters are observed checking out if any of the mallee trees (various eucalyptus species) are in flower. Sometimes one catches a glimpse of the bright yellow feathers of the Yellow Tailed Thornbills as they fly from one patch of vegetation to the next.
From time to time one can see larger birds like the Little Eagle or the Wedge Tailed Eagle, or the smaller Nankeen Kestral and Black Shouldered Kite. Two other larger species in this area are the Grey Currawong and the White-winged Chough. This latter species is quite often seen walking along the side of the road or in the nearby scrubland. I have often been amused seeing them strutting along rather than flying.