Kookaburras

Wild Bird Profiles-Kookaburras

Few animals have their own theme song. But not only does the kookaburra perform a unique call, it is the subject of a popular children’s song. “Kookaburra sits in an old gum tree,” the song begins, “merry, merry king of the bush is he.” Children around the world, even those who have never met Mr. Kookaburra, know about this special bird.

Kookaburras are some of the largest members of the kingfisher family, and can be found across Australia and New Guinea. Their name comes from the distinctive call they make, a throaty, multi-pitch cackling. Their call is their most distinctive feature, and can be heard in the backdrop of many a Hollywood movie set in a dark, mysterious jungle. The noise can be described as a cross between maniacal human laughter, an angry monkey, and a sound your desktop printer would make on its worst day. The birds are highly vocal, and can be incited into a minutes-long tirade by nearly any competing noise.

Kookaburras are approximately 17 inches high, and have plumage ranging from brown and white to golden leopard spots and delicate blue scalloped wings. The birds have large eyes and a thick bill that tilts up at the base, giving them an intense look. Four species of kookaburras exist in the genus Dacelo: the Laughing Kookaburra, the Blue-winged Kookaburra, the Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, and the Spangled Kookaburra. Another species, commonly known as the Shovel-billed Kookaburra, is a member of the genus Clytoceyx. These birds can be found in tropical forests and grasslands in Australia, New Guinea, and the Aru Islands of Indonesia. Kookaburras, like their kingfisher cousins, are carnivorous. However, they won’t be caught diving into lakes to catch fish. Kookaburras catch small animals, including lizards, snakes, small mammals, young birds, and insects with their thick, pointed bills.

Kookaburras are sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females are physiologically distinctive. The birds form pairs after breeding, and will excavate a nest in a hollow tree or termite mound. Females lay up to four white eggs, and both parents take turn incubating. The young birds fledge about one month after hatching, but continue to be fed by their parents for another month. Young kookaburras may remain with their parents for several months after fledging. Kookaburras can be gregarious, and are known to form small groups. These groups of birds are highly territorial, and protect their territories using their loud calls.

According to Aboriginal myth, the kookaburra was chosen by the spirits of the earth and sky to wake up the inhabitants of the earth each morning, so that they would not miss the beautiful sunrise the spirits provided. In the myth, each morning as the night stars begin to fade, the kookaburra begins to laugh, signaling to the spirits to make a fire to light and warm the earth. The spirits instructed the people of earth never to tease the kookaburra because of his important role in bringing dawn to the world. To this day, the children of earth can be heard singing: “Laugh, kookaburra, laugh, kookaburra / gay your life must be!”

About the Author: Chantelle Voss is the Owner of YourBirdOasis.com and a birding enthusiast. Your Bird Oasis will help you transform your garden into your own bird oasis with a variety of beautiful Bird Baths, Bird Feeders, and Bird Houses to choose from. With exquisite artistic Bird Bath Fountains, Bird Bath Bowls, Decorative Bird Feeders at your convenience, you can add a unique touch to your garden and create a haven for the birds in your area.