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Laughing kookaburra

Laughing kookaburras

What are laughing kookaburras?

The laughing kookaburra is the largest of the kingfisher group of birds. The scientific name for laughing kookaburras is Dacelo novaeguineae. The laughing kookaburra is called guganigine by the local Darug inhabitants of the Sydney basin.

Laughing kookaburras are a squat bodied bird with a large head and a long beak. These kookaburras have mostly dark brown backs and wings with a cream white underbelly. Their wings have light blue feathers on their leading edges whilst their tails are barred brown and cream white. They can grow up to 45 centimetres in length. 

Laughing kookaburras are easily distinguished from other species of kookaburra by a very noticeable dark brown eye-stripe through their face.

Laughing kookaburras are most well known for their unique call. Their call sounds somewhat like a laugh which is where their name, laughing kookaburra, comes from. The familiar call of these territorial birds is a loud ‘koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-kaa-kaa-kaa’ often sung in a chorus with other related laughing kookaburras.

Where do laughing kookaburras live?

Laughing kookaburras are native to eastern Australia. They are most commonly found in eucalypt forests within their range as they require these forests with their large trees and shrubs to find their food, to roost and to nest.

What do laughing kookaburras eat?

Laughing kookaburras are carnivorous and use their strong large beaks to catch a wide variety of prey. They will eat small snakes, lizards, fish, small birds, rodents, worms and insects.

These birds use the wait-and-pounce method of hunting. They will position themselves on an appropriate branch with a view and wait for their prey item to appear. Generally these kookaburras drop down, wings back and grab their prey item with their strong beaks. Small prey items are eaten whole whilst larger prey items like snakes and larger lizards are bashed against a branch or rock to kill and soften them before being swallowed.

What adaptations do laughing kookaburras have?

Laughing kookaburras have adaptations that allow them to survive in their often harsh forest environments. Most of these adaptations assist them in their preferred wait and pounce method of hunting within their habitat. Their colouration along with their habit of sitting very still allows them to camouflage with their forest background making them almost invisible to their prey. They have thick feathers compared to other similar sized birds which keep them warmer whilst they wait motionless for their prey. Their forward facing toes are fused for part of their length so that they can sit for losing periods of time. They have superb vision for being able to see their prey from above. Along with their strong beak they also have a strong skull and large neck muscles that allow them to bash their prey to kill ands soften it up before eating. By rotating their heads binocular vision allows them to detect position and movement of their prey.

How do laughing kookaburras reproduce?

The dominant pair of laughing kookaburras in a territory will mate for life. These birds use tree hollows for nesting or in some areas they create hollows in termite nests located in trees to nest in.

They lay up to three eggs in spring or summer. It takes between 24 and 29 days for the eggs to hatch. The extended family assist the parents in incubating the eggs, catching prey, defending and feeding the young. the family group will continue to feed the chicks for up to 40 days after they leave the nest.

What threats do laughing kookaburras face?

The conservation status of laughing kookaburras in New South Wales is currently secure. Mostly because they have such a wide distribution. Laughing kookaburras face threats from humans. Habitat loss through land clearing for farming or housing estates, forestry and intense bushfires to name a few. For their breeding cycle they prefer large old trees for nesting tree hollows. Often these valuable trees are logged for their timber or cleared to make way for farming or housing estates. Providing artificial nesting sites in the form of timber nesting boxes may assist laughing kookaburra populations.

The use of insecticides and rodent poisons are hazardous to laughing kookaburras as they remain in the target animal and can be fatal to these carnivorous birds.

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