Laughing Kookaburra.
Blue Winged Kookaburra

Australian - Kingfisher Family Distribution map of Dacelo novaeguineae

Scientific name: Dacelo novaeguineae
Family: Halcyonidae
Order: Coraciiformes
Also called the
Laughing Jackass

Laughing Kookaburra.
  Go back to main Breeds  Page  
Click  This is what a kookaburra sounds like                                                                                             Blue-Winged Kookaburra

Kookaburras belong to a family of birds that are called Kingfishers.

Minimum size:     40 cm
Maximum size:    45 cm (approx. 17")
Average size:      42 cm
Average weight:  340 g
Breeding season: August to January (in Aus, which is their Springtime)
Sexually Mature: approx 12 months of Age
Life Span - approx 15 years
CITES : Not Listed
Noise Levels:  they can be VERY NOISY at certain times of day

  • The Laughing Kookaburra is a thick-set bird with a large head, short neck, and medium length tail.
  • The bill is long, broad, and somewhat flattened.
  • The head is mostly white with a dark brown crown and a brown stripe through the eye.
  • The breast is creamy white, the wings brown with blue mottling, the back brown and the tail rufous with fine darker brown banding and white edges.
  • Males sport a small patch of blue-green feathers in the centre of the rump that is reduced or absent in the female.
  • The eyes are dark brown.
  • The Laughing Kookaburra, at 47 cm tall and 500 grams in weight,
  • is one of the largest members of the kingfisher family.

  • There are four species of Kookaburras:                                                                  Laughing Kookaburra
    •  Laughing Kookaburra
      • The Laughing Kookaburra is not really laughing when it makes its familiar call.
      • The cackle of the Laughing Kookaburra is actually a territorial call to warn other birds to stay away
      • it is white and brown with some blue and grey on their wings
      • is found throughout eastern Australia
      • and has been introduced into Western Australia, Tasmania, and Flinders and Kangaroo Islands.
    •  Blue-Winged Kookaburra
      • The Blue-winged kookaburra has a large blue patch on the wings.
      • The head and chest are fluffy and covered with light coloured feathers, the rump and wings are coloured bright blue and it has some brown feathers above its dark blue tail .
      • Has a large, cream-white head that is streaked brown.
      • It has a brown back and its wings are mostly blue.                                          Blue-Winged  
      • The rump and tail are also blue on the male, but the female has a reddish-brown barred tail.
      • They have a very pointy long beak. 
      • Differences from Laughing Kookaburra are: blue rump, cream-white head and light eye colour.
      •  It is found in southern New Guinea and the wetter parts of northern Australia, across Queensland and the top part of Australia and down the coast of Western Australia.
      •  It lives in the Mangrove swamps of Northern Australia
      •  and has a preference for aquatic food such as fish, freshwater crayfish, frogs, waterworms and small crabs.
    • The Blue-winged Kookaburra has a call which sounds like a barking cough
    • like its cousin welcomes the sun in the morning but with a call which sounds a little like 'Ow Ow Ow'.....



    • Rufous-bellied Kookaburra                                                                                         Rufous-bellied Kookaburra
      •   is found mainly in New Guinea rainforests, living pairs rather than family groups .
    •  Spangled Kookaburra (Aru Giant Kingfisher)
      •  Very little is known about this species, which is found only on the
        Aru Islands and in southern New Guinea.                                              
        Spangled Kingfisher ►      ►        ►

Distribution and Habitat:

  • The Laughing Kookaburra is native to eastern Australia
  • but over the past century it has been introduced and established in other parts of the continent and on off shore islands such as Tasmania.
  • The Kookaburra is a member of the subfamily Daceloninae, the forest or wood kingfishers.
  • Laughing Kookaburras and Blue-winged Kookaburras live in woodlands and open forests.
  • Species in this group are not restricted to riparian (waterways) habitats and hunt
    primarily over land.
  • They inhabit open woodlands, forests, orchards, parkland, partially timbered farmland, and even
    suburbs and towns.
  • Kookaburras live in nearly all of Australia except the dry interior.
  • They live in family groups of parents and their chicks.
  • The chicks of varying ages help feed the new nestlings.
  • They claim their territory with their laughing calls.
  • Kookaburras lay 2-6 eggs.
    • Their nests are built in hollow branches of trees.

DIET in the WILD                                                                                                   Laughing Kookaburras

  • Kookaburras use their strong beaks to catch a wide variety of prey
  • Their claws, in comparison to other Birds of Prey, are not as strong.
  • Their diet includes lizards, snakes, worms, earthworms and insects.
  • Sometimes they eat rats and small birds.
  • They also eat mice, fish, frogs and other small animals.
  • In times of grasshopper or mouse plagues in the wild,
    • their diet will consist almost entirely of these animals.
  • Kingfishers employ a "sit and wait" technique of hunting, surveying their surroundings from an
    advantageous perch,
    • then swooping down to seize their prey.
    • Small prey are killed directly by the crushing action of the bill.
    • Larger prey, including snakes of up to 1 meter in length, may be whacked repeatedly against a branch or dropped from a height until pulverized.
    • Prey items include large insects, lizards, snakes, amphibians, small mammals, birds, and occasionally fish.


  • The need a varied, high protein, carnivorous diet similar to that of a Bird of Prey or Owl
  • In a Zoo Environment, they are fed commercially prepared "Bird of Prey mix" and dead, day-old chicks.
  • including fish, small snakes, lizards, rodents, worms, beetles and other insects.
  • Crickets, Grasshoppers, earthworms, centipedes, lizards and MEALWORMS.
  • Fresh or frozen Mice (not those found dead), Day old Chicks, small bits of beef, small rats
    •  (not if there's a chance they've eaten Rat Poison tho!)
  •  In an emergency - but only for 24hours max - you could substitute Dog/Cat food.
    • An adult bird will eat approx 1 1/2 day old chicks per day                                 Blue-Winged Kookaburra
    • or 2-3 mice per day and Youngster a little more.
  • They drink very little (if any) as they tend to derive moisture from the food they eat.
    •  However, they LOVE to BATHE so make sure constant Fresh water is given
      for this reason.


How it Catches its Food

  • the Kookaburra uses a "wait-and-pounce technique",
  •  - taking up a post with a good view.
  • When prey appears, the Kookaburra drops straight down from its perch,
    •  its wings back, with beak ready to grab its dinner.                                                    
  • Large prey items like lizards and snakes are bashed against a tree or a rock,
    • to kill them and soften them up before they are eaten.
  • Adult Ks bash their prey on a perch to break up the bones and make it easier to eat
  • It also serves to "tenderise" the meat of the prey.
  •  Feathers and fur from their meals provide roughage
  • while the bones & insect shells provide the calcium
  • Can devour snakes up to 3 ft in length.                                                               Blue-Winged Kookaburra
  •  They even continue with the "Bashing of Food" ritual in captivity when "Dead" food is fed to them
    • As it still serves the purpose of tenderising the flesh and pulverising the bones
  •  Kookaburras are NOT closely associated with WATER  - HOWEVER:
    • They DO like to bathe
    • and will sometimes catch fish with plunging dives and, on occasion, raid suburban goldfish ponds.
    • Prey is stunned by dropping from a height or whacking it against a branch before swallowing.
    • They will even kill poisonous snakes by grabbing them behind the head and smashing them
      against a rock until they are dead.

  •  They regurgitate a "cast" once per day of undigested material in the form of a "dry" pellet
    • (a bit like an owl does).
    • The "Casts" resemble mammalian Droppings! (Nice eh?!"!")
  • If they get stressed they will regurgitate their meal - even hours later.tuamotu kingfisher
  • One of the rarest Kingfishers in the world (there are now only about 50 individuals
    left in the wild of this critically endangered species) is the  Tuamotu Kingfisher
     ►        ►
PROBLEMS with PESTICIDES in the Wild                                                       
  • When humans use pesticides to kill insects
  • they end up poisoning the animals which usually feed on those pests.
  • When kookaburras eat contaminated insects,
  • they absorb the pesticide chemicals and store them in their fat.
  • When food is in short supply and the kookaburras use some of their fat store,
    • high concentrations of chemicals may flow into the blood.
    • The result can be reproductive losses or even death.
    • If you must use Pesticides, choose the least toxic ones
      • and take special care to avoid those which build up residues in the bodies of animals
        which prey on insects.


  •  A Kookaburra's crop is between it's legs                                                                Laughing Kookaburra
  •  so if you had to force feed (or hand-feed a baby)
    • allow extra time for the food to get as far down as the crop.
    •  - you have to push the food a little more the back of their mouths
    • Scissor-type of tweezers are ideal for feeding like this to prevent getting bitten.
    • Food should be moistened first
      • Dip it in water first
      • This will help the food slide down the throat easier.
    • as they also have very short tongues -


  •  Must be housed separately - if put in with other birds esp. smaller ones - they may eat them.
  •  However, they do like to be within sight or sound of other Kookaburras                              
    • and may not "LAUGH" unless with or near their own breed.                                   
  • The need a long Aviary, as they need lots of Flying space.                                                                                         

Conservation status:

  • All four species are listed as being of 'least concern'.

The Name "Kookaburra" & other Idiosyncrasies about them                  

  • comes from an Australian Aboriginal word of the Wiradjuri people, "guuguubarra",
    • which sounds like the laughing call the birds make.
  • The aborigines also believed that any child who insulted a kookaburra would grow an extra slanting tooth.
  • An Aboriginal legend says that the Kookaburra's laugh is a signal to the sky spirits to light the great fire,
    the sun, in the morning and to put it out at night.

DESCRIPTION :                                                                                                                               Laughing Kookaburra

  • Kookaburras have short, thick bodies, large heads and long bills.
  • Their feathers are brown, black or white.
  • There are blue patches on some of the feathers.
  • Males and females look similar.

Their Distinctive Call or LAUGH

  • Kookaburras make a laughing call,
  • most often in the early morning and just before dark.
  • The calls let other Kookaburras know where each one lives.
  • The Laughing Kookaburra and the Blue-winged Kookaburra live in family groups.
  • One will make the chuckling sound that is the start of the call.
  • and the others join in,
    • so they laugh in chorus.
  • 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 to form a raucous chorus.
  • Often heard at dawn in the bush,
    • this call has provided the Laughing Kookaburra with another one of its colourful nicknames,
      • "the Bushman's Clock."


  • The chuckling voice that gives this species its name is a common and familiar sound throughout the bird's range.
  • The loud 'koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-kaa-kaa-kaa' is often sung in a chorus with other individuals.
  • The Laughing Kookaburra also has a shorter 'koooaa',
    • which is normally given when accompanied by other members of its family group.


BREEDING                                                                                                           Laughing Kookaburras

  •  They are sexually mature around 12 months of age
  • They usually only have one clutch per year.
  •  Kookaburras begin their breeding cycle in October, the Australian springtime.
  • 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 of Australia, 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.
  •  After mating, the female Kookaburra lays 2 -4 white eggs, EVERY OTHER DAY
    • about the size of a Bantam chicken egg, in a hole in a tree.
    • they are laid on the bare substrate of the nest chamber naturally occurring tree hollow
  • or in a burrow excavated in an arboreal (tree-dwelling) termite mound.
  • The male and the female take turns to sit on the eggs until they hatch,
    • During the 25- to 29-day incubation.
    • Both parents feed their chicks.
    • Both sexes share the incubation duties and both care for the young.
    • Incubation begins with the first egg laid - of up to four.
    • Feeding of young is carried out by all members of the group.
    • The young leave the nest 30 days after hatching,
    • but the parents continue to feed them for another 40 days.
    • Baby Kookaburras are called PULLUS
    • The young depend on their parents for several months
      •  3 months being the average

  • Laughing Kookaburras are believed to pair for life and have an unusual parenting behaviour.
  • Other Laughing Kookaburras, usually offspring of the previous one to two years, act as 'helpers'
    during the breeding season.
  • Every bird in the group shares all parenting duties.
  •  After the young are reared and fledge they often stay around the nest to help the parents with
    the next clutch of babies.
  • This behaviour contrasts dramatically with the majority of birds who leave the nest once they are fledged to search for territory and mates of their own.
  • When a Kookaburra family-system of chick rearing has been established it is usual for a second clutch of chicks to be raised in one season.
  • In this instance, the offspring of prior clutches will take over the raising of the first brood of the season while the parents attend to the second.
  • In a Kookaburra family group all the birds develop a brood patch which is a bare spot of skin on the
    breast used to transfer body heat to incubate the eggs.
  • There have been documented cases where the helper birds spend more time incubating eggs than
    one of the parents.
  • Most helpers are males who assist with nesting duties as well as territory defence.
  • If a parent dies often a helper will take the place of the missing mate.


  • Hatchlings emerge blind and practically naked.
  • The eyes may not open completely until the bird is nearly three weeks old.
  • by 16 days they are starting to develop their pin feathers
  • Parents feed the young a diet consisting primarily of insects + poss. mealworms.
    • as they remain within the burrow for a full month.
    • When they finally are coaxed from the nest they are already 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.
    • You will know your Kookaburra is still under 3 months old if it's beak is still ALL BLACK.
  • HAND-REARING can be carried out
    • At about four weeks of age,
    • So the early part of rearing is done by the Adults



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