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Laughing Kookaburra

Dacelo novaeguinae

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39 - 42cm

56 - 80cm

310 - 480g

10 - 15 yrs

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The laughing kookaburra is a bird in the kingfisher subfamily Halcyoninae, being formerly known as the “great brown kingfisher” or “laughing kingfisher” before finally adopting the kookaburra name from a now-extinct aboriginal language. Its laugh is so distinctive that it is widely used in media as a sound effect in jungle settings.

Least Concern

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LC

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The body and head are cream-coloured with a dark brown stripe across each eye over the top of the head. The wings and back are brown with sky blue spots on the shoulders. The tail is a reddish-orange with brown bars and white tips on the feathers. Its thick bill is black on top and bone-coloured on the bottom.

What Does it Look Like?

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What Does it Sound Like?

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Its signature laugh starts with a low, hiccupping chuckle which becomes raucous laughter. It is used to establish territory among family groups - if a rival tribe is within earshot and replies, the whole family soon gathers to fill the bush with ringing laughter. It can be heard at any time of day, but most frequently at dawn and dusk.

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They are perhaps most famous for preying on snakes, even venomous ones far longer than the kookaburra itself. However, they much prefer smaller prey such as mice and other small mammals, insects, yabbies, and small birds. Like other kingfishers, they perch on a branch waiting for prey to pass by.

What Does it Eat?

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Where Does it Nest?

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They nest in the hollows of trees or termite mounds, laying three eggs at two-day intervals. If the food supply is low, the third, smaller chick may be killed by its siblings, as a hook on the chicks’ upper mandibles will be used as a weapon. If food is plentiful, the parent birds spend more time brooding the chicks, so they are not able to fight.

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The laughing kookaburra is native to most of eastern Australia but has been introduced into many other areas due of its reputation for killing snakes, and can be found in western Australia from Geraldton to Hopetoun. Its usual habitat is open sclerophyll forest and woodland, but can be found in urban parks and gardens.

Where Does it Live?

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What is its Status?

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Laughing kookaburras are adaptable and are now a common sight in urban settings; it is not uncommon for kookaburras to snatch food out of people's hands without warning by swooping in from a distance. The population is thought to be as many as 65 million individuals and, given their extensive range, have been evaluated as of least concern.

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