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Laughing Kookaburra

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A laughing kookaburra photographed at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Ohio

About the Laughing Kookaburra

The laughing kookaburra is well known both as a symbol of Australia’s birdlife and as the inspirational “merry, merry king of the bush” from the children’s song.

Characteristics

Native to the eucalyptus forests of eastern Australia, the laughing kookaburra is the largest member of the Kingfisher family, with females weighing up to one pound and growing to 18 inches in length. Its beak can reach 4 inches long and is used to snatch a variety of invertebrates and small vertebrates, including the occasional small snake. Since being introduced in western Australia and New Zealand, the kookaburra has angered farmers by preying on their fowl.

The laughing kookaburra has dark brown wing plumage and a white head and underside. Dark brown eye stripes run across its face and its upper bill is black. Its reddish-colored tail is patterned with black bars.

Laughter-Like Call

It gets its moniker from its manic laughter-like call. And its early dawn and dusk cackling chorus earned it the nickname “bushman’s clock.”

Population and Reproduction

Laughing kookaburras are monogamous, territorial birds that nest in tree holes. Females lay one to five eggs, which are tended by a collective unit composed of parents and elder siblings. Fledgling kookaburras generally remain with their parents to help care for the subsequent clutch.

Laughing kookaburras are not currently considered threatened although loss of habitat is a primary threat to the birds. They have adapted well to human development and often inhabit suburban areas, which provide both food and shelter.