The laughing kookaburra belongs to the kingfisher family but unlike most kingfishers that are brightly coloured these birds are plain coloured. They are a stocky bird with a large head, big brown eyes and a large bill. They have a white or beige head and front with brown wings and back. The front has pale wavy grey lines. The wings are speckled with sky blue spots, and the male of the species often has blue just above the base of their tail. The tail is reddish-orange in colour with brown bars across it and white tips on the feathers. There is a dark brown stripe which looks like a mask crossing each eye.
Their beak is 10cm (4in) long. It is coloured black on the top and bone on the bottom.
The average body length of the laughing kookaburra is 39 to 42 cms (15.4 to 16.5 in) with the average weight being 196 to 465 grams (6.9 to 16.4 ounces). The females are slightly heavier than the males. Their wingspan is 56-66cm (22-26in).
Most kingfishers specialise in diving in to streams and ponds to catch fish however the laughing kookaburra rarely eats fish. Their diet instead consists mainly of reptiles and rodents. They will eat snakes, lizards, mice, insects and small birds and their young.
They hunt their prey by staying still on a branch or perch waiting for the prey to pass by. When the prey passes by they will swoop down and land next to it taking it in their bill. They will usually bang the prey against a branch to kill it and then will swallow it whole head first.
Wild - 11-15 years
Captive - 15-20 years
The laughing kookaburra is native to eastern Australia. There have been populations introduced into Tasmania, Flinders Island, Kangaroo Island and New Zealand.
They are found in dry eucalyptus forests, woodlands and also in urban parks and gardens. They are quite happy to interact with humans and will even eat out of peoples hands and will sometimes swoop in and take food from peoples hands.
Kookaburras stay with their mate for life and will use the same nest hole in a tree trunk or arboreal termite nest year after year.
Breeding takes place from August to January. Once they are ready to mate the male will feed the female for about six weeks before she will lay the eggs. The female will lay two or three eggs and after an incubation period of 24 to 29 days the chicks will be born. The breeding pair are helped with incubating the eggs, keeping the chicks warm and feeding them by four or five of their grown young. They also help to defend the territory while the breeding pair are busy with the new chicks.
They are sexually mature at a year old but typically won't breed as they remain with their parents to help them raise the next clutch of eggs.
Kookaburras live in loose family groups and their laughter like call serves to let other birds know that an area is their territory. They live in family groups with offspring that help their parents care and hunt for the next generation of kookaburras.
Their laugh can be heard at any time of the day but is most often heard after sunset to dusk or shortly after dawn. One of the birds will usually start with a bit of a chuckle and then erupts into a shrieking “laugh”, and if a rival tribe is near the whole group will then join in to let them know that territory is taken.
Laughing kookaburras have different calls that they use for other things such as courtship, showing aggression, raising the alarm and begging for food.
The laughing kookaburra is known as the “bushmans alarm clock”.
They were once known as the laughing jackass.
They often live in suburban areas where they can take food from peoples hands.
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BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Dacelo novaeguineae. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/04/2020
BirdLife International 2016. Dacelo novaeguineae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22683189A92977835. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22683189A92977835.en. Downloaded on 18 April 2020.
National Geographic. 2020. Laughing Kookaburra. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/l/laughing-kookaburra/> [Accessed 18 April 2020].
Birdsinbackyards.net. 2020. Laughing Kookaburra | BIRDS In BACKYARDS. [online] Available at: <http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Dacelo-novaeguineae> [Accessed 18 April 2020].
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