AppearanceThe Laughing Kookaburra is a stocky bird of about 45 cm in length, with a large head, a prominent brown eye, and a very large bill. The sexes are very similar, although the female averages larger and has less blue to the rump than the male. They have a white or cream-coloured body and head with a dark brown stripe through each eye and more faintly over the top of the head. The wings and back are brown with sky blue spots on the shoulders. The tail is rusty reddish-orange with dark brown bars and white tips on the feathers. The heavy bill is black on top and bone coloured on the bottom.
DistributionThe Laughing Kookaburra is native to eastern mainland Australia, and has also been introduced to Tasmania, Flinders Island and Kangaroo Island.
Some were also introduced to New Zealand between 1866 and 1880, but only those released on Kawau Island by Sir George Grey survived. Descendants of these individuals are found there today. Remnants of this population have been seen on the New Zealand mainland near Matakana.
Individuals were released at Perth, Western Australia, in 1898 and can now be found throughout a wide area surrounding the city.
BehaviorKookaburras occupy woodland territories in loose family groups, and their laughter serves the same purpose as a great many other bird calls—to demarcate territorial borders. Most species of Kookaburra tend to live in family units, with offspring helping the parents hunt and care for the next generation of offspring.
ReproductionDuring mating season, the Laughing Kookaburra reputedly indulges in behaviour similar to that of a Wattlebird. The female adopts a begging posture and vocalises like a young bird. The male then offers her his current catch accompanied with an "oo oo oo" sound. However, some observers maintain that the opposite happens - the female approaches the male with her current catch and offers it to him. Either way, they start breeding around October/November. If the first clutch fails, they will continue breeding into the summer months.
They generally lay three eggs at about 2-day intervals. If the food supply is not adequate, the third egg will be smaller and the third chick will also be smaller and at a disadvantage relative to its larger siblings. Chicks have a hook on the upper mandible, which disappears by the time of fledging. If the food supply to the chicks is not adequate, the chicks will quarrel, with the hook being used as a weapon. The smallest chick may even be killed by its larger siblings. If food is plentiful, the parent birds spend more time brooding the chicks and so the chicks are not able to fight.
FoodKookaburras hunt much as other kingfishers do: by perching on a convenient branch or wire and waiting patiently for prey to pass by. Common prey include mice and similar-sized small mammals, large insects, lizards, small birds and nestlings, and most famously, snakes. Small prey are preferred, but kookaburras sometimes take large creatures, including venomous snakes much longer than their bodies.
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