The Story of a Galah Named Nyoni

Photo by Geraldine Phillips Location: Australia Shown: Galah "Nyoni"

Most of the emails I get from people are from galah owners. Bondi, Bandit and Ace (my galahs) tend to keep me pretty popular among the galah people and so that's where a majority of my advice is given to and sought from. A recent fascinating email came to me from the companions of a galah named Nyoni. Nyoni's "owners" were nice enough to let me share their story, or rather, Nyoni's story with everyone who reads my blog. I have to say, I'm excited and honored to share it. First off, something I didn't realize early on until a man commented on one of my blog posts about the eyes of galahs. The articles are entitled Parrot Eyes and Galah Eyes. The man went on to say that there are actually two different kinds of species of galahs in Australia and one kind doesn't get the red around the eyes at all. Now, in the wild, these two different species of galahs have naturally bred with one another, with no human interference causing it. The galahs that surrounded Nyoni's Australia home were mainly of the other species, but Geraldine spotted both kinds of galahs around her home, even the kind matching that which Nyoni appeared to be. When she first bought Nyoni, he was clipped so harshly that his feathers had a very hard time coming back in... the process took almost 2 years! That's why I hate the idea of wing clipping. One of the many reasons, anyway.  

Photo by Geraldine Phillips Location: Australia Shown in a tree among the house: Galah "Nyoni"

I began by putting Nyoni out in the trees outside while young. His wing was severely trimmed by the pet shop and as a result it took almost two years to grow back. So he would sit in the trees or graze on the ground near to me. Wild Galahs began to visit and Nyoni began to socialise with them. They became very protective of him too when he wandered too far from the house. Once they called me frantically and swooped over and around him as a hawk tried to take him. I got there just in time but it was wonderful to see the other wild ones looking out for him.  

That following quote was from the first email I received from Geraldine. She began letting Nyoni fly freely with the galahs that hung around the house, who quickly became Nyoni's friends. One of the best parts of her email that I really connected with was when she wrote...  

I began taking him out again and letting him back in the house free to walk and fly. I then let him fly out one day on his own and he flew with the wild Galah and had so much fun. When he came in again he was smiling (his whole face lit up) and behaved in a very much sweeter attitude. He was becoming abit aggressive before with having been in the cage so long I guess. Anyway, this worked for a few weeks and he would even fly down onto my arm when I called and it was going well.  

However, one day as this whole ideal life became more routine to Nyoni now that he could fly with his feathers grown completely in, he didn't return home for the night. Geraldine found him at an animal care taker's home where they told Geraldine that pet galahs were not supposed to be released into the wild because of the pets usually being a sub species of what's actually wild there. But Geraldine knew she saw Nyoni's species mixed in with the wild ones she saw, and she felt terrible for not being allowed to do this with Nyoni anymore since it had brought him genuine happiness in his life he didn't know before.   How could she stop now? Was it best for Nyoni?   Geraldine tried abiding by the rules the care takers told her of. And instead tried to make his home experience as natural as possible. She gathered natural branches the wild galahs used, and grass seeds. She watched what the wild ones ate and gave the same to Nyoni. Teaching him of the wild life within his new cage bound and in house lifestyle.   But with the new lifestyle came new attitude from Nyoni. He was showing signs of missing his galah friends, his frequent baths in the wild that taught him of water and weather... and the fun of flying around with a bunch of energy-crazed galahs just like him! He began taking it out on Geraldine and Dave, not understanding why the sudden change in environment had happened. He became less cuddly, more aggressive and a lot more moody.  

Photo by Geraldine Phillips Location: Australia Learning about natural showers: Galah "Nyoni"

Geraldine began to question if she was the right home for Nyoni if she couldn't offer him the choice to live with her or not. She yearned to set him free as much as he wanted the option, and she knew deep down he would choose to stay as long as he was able to choose. But unable to choose, he'd never want to stay. How could she make life as fun, as full for Nyoni?

She knew she needed to train him better for the likelihood of history not going on repeat. Was there a way to train him so well he could fly freefly but come home at night to stay with her? In the safety of her home and away from being brought to any care takers? Would there be a way to train recall when there's a bunch of wild birds there too? These were questions she asked  of me.  I knew I'd feel the same way as her if I was in her situation and the quality of life aspect would get the better of me too. 

Photo by Geraldine Phillips Location: Australia Pictured: A wild flock of species and sub species galahs including Nyoni 

I recommended basic training to Geraldine. Getting a clicker, starting with things as easy as target training and super basic taming and training courses. Once Nyoni would realize he could learn and train, something mentally stimulating and challenging, as well as making him more and more bonded to Geraldine... she could have much better chances with recall flight training happening fast and smooth.

She took my advice immediately and saw results just as fast! I was thrilled to hear from her just days later...

Anyway, I will be training Nyoni and will be getting all that info you spoke of. It will be fantastic to have him come and go daily and we get to have the happy contented bits at the end.

Her dedication was perfection, she then followed up with...  

Nyoni was doing really well again (was using your advice on food) and was having his flight with the flock daily and returning to the cage every afternoon. He has had a feed and is resting in his cage. I will not be closing it, as I want him to decide what he wants for his life. Will see where it goes from here. Will try and take more photos and videos for you if he hangs around.  

And the most recent letter from Geraldine and Nyoni read something like this...  

It should be fine to put Nyoni on your blog. He is here every day now and sleeps over when he wants. He loves his treats and flies onto my arm outside on command, willingly now. He is much happier and allows much more loving from both myself and my husband (who is also called Dave). He seems to have a following in the flock too. When he goes off on his own to another area to graze on grass seeds for instance, then others tend to follow. This means he is totally accepted and respected, I believe anyway. It is quite harsh climate wise here and Nyoni has to become very much a survivor from that point of view. So far so good. He has learnt so much but he was exposed to much from the beginning, with being put out in the trees and mixing with the flock before his clipped wing grew back. He knows what to eat out there if he has to, as I watched the flock and gave Nyoni what they ate. It would not be recommended for anyone to just release their parrot without much training on survival in their area. It has been two years of bringing Nyoni to this point. Not sure where it is leading to either. I am a person that does not like any animal caged and desire all birds to experience freedom in flight.  So that is what was my motivation to train Nyoni this way. It is a personal perception of it all I guess. Your tips and the tips I found on (through your recommendation) have been amazing and have helped me with gaining confidence with Nyoni. Life is full of risk and it has had its moments for Nyoni too. I have learnt so much about courage and love through Nyoni.  

I couldn't have said it better myself. What a wonderful story. Thank you for allowing me to share it with the world, Geraldine, Dave and of course Nyoni.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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