October 28th 2011 02:18
Kookaburras are from the kingfisher family, and are the world’s largest Kingfisher. They mainly prey on terrestrial creatures such as insects, small mammals, frogs, snakes and lizards. It is not unusual to see one perched in a tree with a small snake in its beak, whacking it against a branch to kill it.
The laughing kookaburra attains a length of 45 centimetres. The breast and head is white with dark brown lines through the eyes and over the crown. The wings and shoulders are brown and may be tipped with light blue, and the tail is barred dark brown. There is little sexual dimorphism between genders but males can sometimes be distinguished by a bluish rump.
Kookaburras are as well adapted to suburbia as native eucalypt forests, sitting patiently, scanning for prey. They breed from September to January, nesting in tree hollows.
There is a second species of kookaburra in Australia, the Blue Winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii). It is smaller with more vivid blue markings. Its range extends from subtropical Queensland across the north Australian tropics as well as Papua New Guinea. It nests in tree hollows and termite mounds
Kookaburra hens and cocks share in the nesting duties. Young kookaburras stay with their parents for two or three years, assisting in the raising of younger siblings, gaining experience for rearing their own offspring.
The 1934 song 'Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree’ has become an Australian colonial classic, with various schoolyard versions circulating for decades. In 2009 the copyright holders sued the Australian band Men At Work for plagiarism, claiming their 1981 song ‘Down Under’ used a flute riff from the 1934 song.
Laughing kookaburra call courtesy of Fred Van Gessel