Laughing Kookaburra

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image: laughkoobaburra.jpg

Common Name: Laughing Kookaburra

Scientific Name: Dacelo novaeguineae

Size: 17 inches (45cm)

Habitat: Australia; found throughout eastern Australia. They have been introduced to Tasmania. There is some overlap in Queensland with the Blue-winged kookaburra, although this species is more coastal. Common habitat includes open forests, woodlands and coastal scrub.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 65,000,000.

Diet: Insects, worms and crustaceans, although small snakes, mammals, frogs and birds may also be eaten. Prey is seized by pouncing from a suitable perch. Small prey is eaten whole, but larger prey is killed by bashing it against the ground or tree branch.

Breeding: Laughing Kookaburras are believed to pair for life. The nest is a bare chamber in a naturally occurring tree hollow or in a burrow excavated in an arboreal (tree-dwelling) termite mound. Both sexes share the incubation duties and both care for the young. Other Laughing Kookaburras, usually offspring of the previous one to two years, act as 'helpers' during the breeding season. Every bird in the group shares all parenting duties. Two to four white eggs are laid in September through January.

Cool Facts: If you’ve ever seen a “Jungle” movie you’ve heard the characteristic call of the Laughing Kookaburra. Hollywood has made the Kookaburra almost synonymous with what you expect to hear in the jungle. The laugh is actually a warning call to other Kookaburras.

C. H. Eden in 1872 described the Kookaburra by it’s other, more “colorful” common name, "At daylight came a hideous chorus of fiendish laughter, as if the infernal regions had been broken loose- this was the song of another feathered innocent, the laughing jackass- not half a bad sort of fellow when you come to know him, for he kills snakes, and is an infallible sign of the vicinity of fresh water…"

The Kookaburra is also the star of a popular Australian nursery rhyme written by Marion Sinclair, “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree”.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh!
Gay your life must be

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Eating all the gum drops he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop!
Leave some there for me!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Counting all the monkeys he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop!
That's not a monkey that's me

Kookaburra sits on a rusty nail
Gets a boo-boo in his tail
Cry, Kookaburra! Cry!
Oh how life can be!

Kookaburras method of parenting is unique among birds and is only found with two others species within the animal kingdom, primates and humans. Once their young have fledged, they stay around the nest and help the parents with the next clutch. In fact, if a parent dies, one of it’s children will take up its responsibilities. Most other birds will leave the nest to mate and start their own families.

Kookaburras are also known for their adaptation skills, surviving on what foodstuffs are available. Being in the Kingfisher family, of course it displays similar behaviors such as hovering above water, searching for its prey and dive-bombing it. It also catches snakes and lizards by the head and drops them from great heights or beats them on tree limbs before consuming them. Many Kookaburras have learned to interact with humans and have become “tame” as their habitats give way to human populations.

Found in Songbird ReMix Second Edition and Songbird ReMix Australia Volume III

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