Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wildlife on Wednesday ... the Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)

There is a family of Laughing Kookaburras that live in and around the little valley in the foothills here and they are regular visitors to my property.

These birds are the largest of the kingfishers, but unlike other kingfishers, they inhabit the same territory all year round.

The Laughing Kookaburra is instantly recognisable with its' white belly, whitish head, dark brown eye-stripes ...

.... brown wings and a brown back.

It has a huge bill that is black on the top and tan on the lower mandible ... very useful for handling the food it likes to eat!

It feeds mostly on insects like the Elephant Beetle in the photo above, and also worms and crustaceans.  Although it also likes to dine on the occasional small snake, mammals, frogs and birds. 

The method of hunting is a 'Perch and Pounce" approach.  The kookaburra will sit motionless on a vantage point ... like a tree branch or a railing! ... and stare fixedly at the ground below.

When it sights prey, it will flutter down on to it, seize it in the bill, and fly back to a perch to eat it.  Small prey is usually eaten whole, but larger prey is killed by bashing it against the ground or a tree branch.

That's exactly what this kookaburra was doing right before I got this shot ...  it was bashing the large Elephant Beetle against the rock to kill it.  I've also seen a kookaburra bashing a large snail against a rock in order to smash the shell first.

These birds are called the 'Laughing Kookaburra' as they have a loud, raucous call that sounds very much like a laugh ... the "koo-koo-koo-ka-ka-ka" echoes up and down the valley beside my home every morning, most evenings and sometimes during the day as well.

Here's a little snippet of the Laughing Kookaburra's song.  Whilst the little fellow in the video didn't join in the chorus, he was surrounded by family members in fine voice.  (Try to ignore the Cicada song in the background.  There was a bit of competition going on!)

Over here they are sometimes referred to as "the Bushman's clock" because they call just before dawn every morning!  They are my alarm clock ... I don't really need the other sort at all!

Of course, according to an Aboriginal legend, the kookaburra's famous chorus of laughter every morning is a signal for the sky people to light the great fire that illuminates and warms the earth by day.  It's actually more to do with marking territory ... but I love this story!


  1. Bernie,these are great pictures. This bird looked like it was posing for you.


  2. Hi GG ... this family of kookaburras seem to be quite used to us now. They're always around our home and often fly in and perch on our verandah railing or stairway. They do sit there and post quite happily for me!

  3. Woops ... I meant to type 'pose' of course! Fancy a teacher making a spelling mistake ... it's late ... that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!!

  4. What a crazy looking bird! Looks like a cross between a platypus and a hawk lol. I love your native wildlife...:D Great photos!

  5. Kyna ... I can see that it does have a flattened beak like a platypus and a body like a hawk! You're so right ... we do have some wonderful wildlife downunder.

  6. Bernie you have the most unusual creatures in your county. I love this birds big eyes. Somehow it makes it looks so cute. That beak is what is unusual on it.The feather patterns are pretty. It almost look like it has been pieced together from two different birds. LOL! Its head sure out weighs its tail feathers. ;-)
    Wonderful pictures of it and thanks so much for sharing your wonderful world to us.

  7. I love Kookaburras! I had a friend in Australia when I was little, and I always begged her to send postcards with Kookaburras on them. I collected tons of them, although I have no idea what ever happened to them all. Your photos brought back some fun memories! Thank you!

  8. What a lovely blog - every one of the posts that I've read is fascinating and with such beautiful pictures. I shall look forward to seeing more.



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