Laughing Kookaburra

(Dacelo novaeguineae)


The name Kookaburra comes from Wiradhuri, an Australian Aboriginal language.

You may not think you've heard the rollicking call of the Laughing Kookaburra, but  you almost certainly have.  The Kookaburr's loud "laugh" -- that echoing koo-koo-koo-koo-KA-KA-KA! in the background of every jungle movie ever made -- actually comes from a squat, unassuming bird who would never be found anywhere near a jungle.  In fact, the traditional home of the wild Laughing Kookaburra is the wide-open eucalyptus forests of Australia.

The Laughing Kookaburra is the largest member of the kingfisher family.  But while many kingfishers are brightly colored and famed for their dramatic dives down into the water in search of fish, the brown-and-biege Laughing Kookaburra prefers dry woodlands and city parks, not to mention a more practical sit-and-wait style of hunting.  Kookaburras will eat almost any kind of meat they can get hold of -- insects, small mammals, hotdogs, snakes.  Once caught up in the Kookaburra's strong beak, prey is carried up into the trees and whacked repeated against a branch to kill it and soften the insides up for easy eating.

When they're not stealing food from picnics or beating up snakes, Kookaburras use their distinctive call as a territorial marker.  Everywhere you can hear their laughter belongs to them!  Unfortunately, they like nothing better than to sound off first thing in the morning.  This tendency to wake people up, whether they want to or not, has earned the Laughing Kookaburra the local nickname "The Bushman's Alarm Clock."


Native to eastern Australia, but an introduced population exists around Perth in western Australia as well as in New Zealand.


Traditionally eucalyptus forests. However, Kookaburras have adapted well to human landscapes, and are now a common sight in suburban gardens and parks.


Small mammals, large insects, lizards -- and snakes! Kookaburras are famous for eating even venomous snakes that are longer than their own bodies.


Laughing Kookaburras breed during the summer months (which in Australia are October - November). They cooperate in the excavation of a hollow tree or arboreal termite mound where the female will lay her 2-4 eggs. Chicks hatch after about 27 days, and remain in the burrow for up to a month. When they are finally coaxed out of the nesting burrow, chicks are already able to fly and join in the raucous family chorus. Previous seasons' offspring will often stay within the family group, helping to raise the next year's brood.


Not Under Threat (Least Concern)

At the Aviary

See Giggles and Mrs. Giggles near the entrance to our Tropical Rainforest habitat.