Kookaburras (genus Dacelo) are large to very large (total length 28–42 cm/11–17 in) terrestrial kingfishers native to Australia and New Guinea, the name a loanword from Wiradjuri guuguubarra, which is onomatopoeic of its call. The single member of the genus Clytoceyx, though commonly referred to as the Shovel-billed Kookaburra, is not treated in this article.
Kookaburras are best known for their unmistakable call, which sounds uncannily like loud, echoing human laughter — good-natured, but rather hysterical, merriment in the case of the renowned Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae); and maniacal cackling in the case of the slightly smaller Blue-winged Kookaburra (D. leachii). They are generally not closely associated with water, and can be found in habitats ranging from humid forest to arid savanna, but also in suburban and residential areas near running water and where food can be searched for easily.
1 Classification and species
3 In culture
3.2 Postage stamps
5 Further reading
6 External links
Classification and species
There are four known species of kookaburras found in Australia, New Guinea, and the Aru Islands.
Unusual for close relatives, the Laughing and Blue-winged species are direct competitors in the area where their ranges overlap. This suggests that the two species, though having common stock, evolved in isolation (possibly during a period when Australia and New Guinea were more distant — see Australia-New Guinea) and were only brought back into contact in relatively recent geological times.
A male Blue-winged Kookaburra
All kookaburras are sexually dimorphic, but this is only obvious in the Blue-winged and the Rufous-bellied, where males have blue tails, females rufous.
Rufous-bellied Kookaburra (Dacelo gaudichaud). (southern New Guinea, Saibai island)
Spangled Kookaburra (Dacelo tyro). (Aru Islands, southern New Guinea)
Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii). (northern Australia, southern New Guinea)
Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae). (native to eastern Australia, introduced to southwest Australia)
Kookaburras are carnivorous. They will eat lizards, snakes, insects, mice, other small birds, and raw meat. The most social birds will accept handouts from humans and will take raw or cooked meat (even if at high temperature) from on or near open-air barbecues left unattended. It is generally not advised to feed the birds too regularly as meat alone does not include calcium and other nutrients essential to the bird. Remainders of mince on the bird’s beak can fester and cause problems for the bird.
They are territorial, and often live with the partly grown chicks of the previous season. They often sing as a chorus to mark their territory.
In the wild, kookaburras are known to eat the young of other birds and snakes, and insects and small reptiles and even other small birds, such as finches if they are lucky enough to catch them. In zoos, they are usually fed food for birds of prey, and dead baby chicks.