38 - 42cm
58 - 72cm
260 - 330g
10 - 15 yrs
The blue-winged kookaburra (Dacelo leachii) is a large species of kingfisher native to northern Australia and southern New Guinea. It was once confused with the laughing kookaburra, and wasn’t considered a unique species until 50 years after its discovery. It is sometimes known as Leach’s kookaburra; the “leachii” part of its scientific name commemorates British zoologist William Elford Leach.
Compared to the more familiar laughing kookaburra, this species is slightly smaller in size but with a heavier bill. The most notable difference, though, are its namesake blue wings, which are far more pronounced and compliment the male’s bright blue tail. The female, however, has a rufous brown tail with black barring.
What Does it Look Like?
What Does it Sound Like?
Although the blue-winged kookaburra’s call differs slightly from that of the laughing kookaburra, it has nonetheless caused it to gain a similar level of infamy with locals, who often refer to it as the “howling jackass”. The call takes the form of a high-pitched trill often described as a maniacal cackling or barking.
They appear to prey on a large variety of ground-dwelling animals, showing a level of adaptability few birds possess. Catches can range from insects, lizards, amphibians, arthropods (such as spiders and scorpions), fish, birds and rodents. Their opportunistic nature has even led them to take advantage of bushfires to flush out prey.
What Does it Eat?
Where Does it Nest?
It selects a high tree – usually 25 metres or more - and settles into a natural hollow. The clutch is usually 3-4 eggs, which take about 4 weeks to hatch. The chicks are born blind and gain sight from day 10 onwards. They are highly aggressive and invariably kill their younger siblings. Once fledged, they will be taught to hunt by their parents for up to 10 weeks.
Despite both having a large range, there is little crossover with the laughing kookaburra, except in north-east Queensland. It can be found broadly along the northern coastal areas from Brisbane in the east through to Broom in the west, but can also be found in the Hamersley Range, as well as in southern New Guinea. It resides in open savannah and farmland.
Where Does it Live?
What is its Status?
Despite being considered Least Concern, not much is known about its population. It is thought to be quite numerous due to its large range and apparent commonality, but its similarity to the laughing kookaburra may cause mis-identification. However, as it occurs in many of northern Australia’s national parks, no particular conservation action is currently needed.
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