Ian’s Bird of the Week – Laughing Kookaburra ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 01/23/11
The Blue-winged Kookaburra has featured as bird of the week (twice) but, as far as I can detect, the iconic Laughing Kookaburra hasn’t, so let’s correct that using library photos. Bird photo opportunities were time-constrained during the wonderful recorder course in Armidale, NSW, though a family of roosting Southern Boobooks (which featured as bird of the week last year) gave the participants much pleasure and I’ll let you know when I’ve put the photos on the website.
Its loud cackling call is a characteristic sound of the Australian landscape (and of the sound tracks of B-grade jungle movies not set in Australia) and it’s a familiar bird in southern and eastern Australia, first photo.
Up to 47cm/18.5in in length, it’s larger than its blue-winged cousin (length to 40cm) and by far the largest Australian Kingfisher. Unlike male blue-winged, birds of both sexes have brown tails and are not easily told apart. The third photo shows a breeding pair of Laughing Kookaburras, photographed near their nest site in a tree hollow in the botanic gardens (the Palmetum) in Townsville.
Juvenile birds are recognisable by the pale brownish scalloped edges to the plumage, most noticeable on the back like the right hand bird in the fourth photo. This bird is barely fledged and has a very short tail.
The original range of the Laughing Kookaburra comprised only mainland eastern Australia from the tip of Cape York in the north south to Victoria and as far west as eastern South Australia. Since european settlement it has been successfully introduced to southwestern Western Australia, Tasmania, the islands in Bass Strait and Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Unfortunately, in these areas it competes with the native wildlife for food and with species that nest in tree hollows such as Southern Boobooks.
While we were at the National Aviary last summer, we had the privilege of seeing and hearing the Kookaburra in action. Below is the video I took up there. The Kookaburras are in the Alcedinidae – Kingfisher Family of the Coraciiformes Order.
The 5 Kookaburras are the Shovel-billed, Laughing, Blue-winged, Spangled and Rufous-bellied Kookaburra.
Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh. (Luke 6:21 NKJV)