Laughing Kookaburra

(Dacelo novaeguineae)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in fields, forests, and towns throughout Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea.

Size: 10-18 inches tall; about 1 pound

Wild Diet: Insects, spiders, reptiles, worms, snails, frogs, small birds, and small rodents

Predators: Goshawks and whistling kites; possibly opossums, cats, and foxes

Lifespan: 10-15 years

Reproduction: Kookaburras mate for life and actively defend their territory, usually nesting in tree hollows or holes excavated in riverbanks. Females lay 2-3 eggs that incubate for 18-22 days. Chicks often stay with their parents as “helpers” to assist in procuring food for the next brood of chicks. Female helpers often leave the group after one year, while male helpers usually stay for two years.

Behavior: Kookaburras are known for a unique song that sounds like a hearty human laugh, usually heard in the early morning and early evening. They can also mimic unusual sounds like steam whistles. They catch mice and other small prey with a sharp beak, then carry the prey to a tree and beat it against a branch to kill it.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Least Concern

The kookaburra is vulnerable to habitat loss, but its populations are stable.

Did you know?

  • Aside from “laughing,” kookaburras communicate with family members using six distinctive calls: chuckle, chuck, squawk, soft squawk, cackle, and kooaa.
  • They are the largest member of the kingfisher family.