Genus/Species: Dacelo novaeguineae
Description: The Laughing Kookaburra is the largest member of the Kingfisher family. They are part of the forest or wood kingfishers. Their bill is long, broad, and somewhat flattened. Males sport a small patch of blue-green feathers in the center of the rump that is smaller or absent in the female. The Kookaburra, can be up to 18 inches in length, their stout beaks can grow to 4 inches
Distribution and Habitat: Native to eastern Australia but it has been introduced and established in other parts of the continent and on off shore islands such asTasmania. The Kookaburra hunts primarily over land. They inhabit open woodlands, forests, orchards, parks, farms, and even suburbs and towns.
Diet: Prey items include large insects, lizards, snakes, amphibians, small mammals, birds, and occasionally fish. Kingfishers employ a "sit and wait" technique of hunting, surveying their surroundings from an advantageous perch, then it swoops down to seize their prey. Smaller prey gets killed directly by the crushing action of the bill. Larger prey may be whacked repeatedly against a branch or dropped to the ground.
Nature Notes: The most famous feature of the species is its loud, boisterous "laugh", a repeated "kook-kook-kook-ka-ka-ka" call that rises and falls in volume as family members join in. Often heard at dawn inAustralia, they have nicknamed it "the Bushman's Clock."
Family Life: Kookaburras begin their breeding cycle in October, the Australian spring. Courtship includes vocalizations and conspicuous display flights high over the treetops. Once a pair selects a breeding territory they begin nest construction. Both male and female participate in excavating a nest burrow. In some parts ofAustralia termites construct enormous clay mound nests high in Acacia trees. These arboreal termite mounds seem to be the preferred nest site for Kookaburras and other kingfisher species. They will also utilize hollow trees, earthen banks, and even holes in walls when better sites are unavailable. Burrows may be two feet deep with an entrance hole four inches in diameter. Two to four white eggs are common. Both parents participate in the 25- to 29-day incubation.
The hatchlings emerge blind and practically naked. Their eyes may not open completely until the chicks are three weeks old. Parents feed the young a diet consisting primarily of insects, as they remain within the burrow for a full month. When they finally leave the nest they are able to fly. The parents continue to feed the fledglings for several weeks after they emerge from the nest. The birds will remain together as a family group until the next breeding season begins.