Jonathan Jones: Birds that Adapt

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bill Gammage describes galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla) as the ‘great adaptors’, showing through his work that galahs have capitalised on the pastoralisation of Australia.

Galahs were once uncommon and lived only in the interior, but because of the transformation of the landscape through farming, and due to the creation of permanent water sources, grain galahs are now seen in vast volumes, making them one of the more dominant species in Australia.

Other birds have similarly been able to adapt and thrive with recent changes. During the early days of the Sydney colony, it was noted that welcome swallows (Hirundo neoxena) quickly adapted their mud and grass nests to the eves of the newly erected buildings. In recent years, the Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) has become common in urban areas and in some cases classed as a pest. Similar to galahs, little corellas (Cacatua sanguinea) are booming, especially in rural neighbourhoods. But as the numbers of these species increase in cities, their numbers in natural environments decline.


Each week Jonathan Jones shares stories of native Australian birds, touching on their importance, the issues they face and what we can learn from them. Jones' upcoming artwork for the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art requires thousands of native Australian bird feathers, which he needs your help to find.

Image 1: Galahs, via Birdlife Australia
Image 2: Welcome Swallow, via Birdlife Australia

Image 3: Little Corella, via Birdlife Australia