Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)


Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family:    Alcedinidae
Size:    Length: 18 inches (46 cm)
Weight: Up to 1 pound (0.45 g)
Diet: Snakes, lizards, worms, insects, frogs, birds and rodents
Distribution: Australia and New Zealand
Young:  2 to 4 chicks, once or twice per year
Animal Predators:  Wedge-tailed eagles, cats, brown goshawks, owls and foxes
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Up to 20 years



·     The kookaburra is also known as the “great brown kingfisher” and the “laughing jackass.”

·     The laughing sound of the kookaburra has been heard in the background of many Hollywood films that take place in Africa or the Amazon.

·     The kookaburra is the largest kingfisher in the world, but unlike other kingfishers, they do not eat fish.



Kookaburras have brown feathers on the upper side of their wings, white feathers underneath and on their belly, and white tips on the outer tail feathers. They have dark stripes across their eyes, a large, square shaped head and small feet, used mainly for perching. Their long bill is dark on top and lighter underneath. 



Kookaburras live in Australia, with the largest populations in eastern and southwestern Australia. They were introduced into Tasmania and New Zealand and are now year-round residents. They live in densely forested areas with inland water nearby.


Feeding Habits

Kookaburras eat snakes, lizards, worms, insects, frogs, birds and rodents. Kookaburras do not need to drink water because they get all the moisture they need in the food they eat. 



Breeding occurs between September and January. The nest is built in a cavity within a tree trunk or branch or, if no tree cavities are available, a hollow may be made within a termite nest. The female lays two to four pure white eggs, one day apart. The eggs are similar in size to chicken eggs. The offspring of the kookaburra live with their parents for about four years, so both the parents and the offspring take turns incubating the eggs for 24 to 26 days. The eggs hatch one day apart, in the order in which they were laid. The parents and the offspring of previous clutches will go out and obtain food for the chicks. Within 36 days, the chicks begin learning to fly, but the older family members will keep bringing them food until they reach three to four months. By this time, they will have reached full size and be identical in appearance to the adults. When full grown, they stay and help raise younger siblings and protect the territory, but eventually leave to find mates and establish their own territories. 



Kookaburras are extremely unique birds in many ways. They have a loud, laughing call that is heard early in the morning as well as at sunset. This early morning call has earned the kookaburra the name “bushman’s clock.” They are sociable birds and live in small groups consisting of an adult male and female, plus their offspring of various ages. These birds are well known across Australia and have adapted well to human settlements. Some can be quite tame, accepting bits of food like cheese or raw meat from human hands, and have been known to tap on windows while making their laughing call in the early morning to wake up the human inhabitants.



Kookaburras are widespread and are not a conservation concern. 









Kookaburra Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited