Kookaburras are large to very large (total length
28–42 cm) terrestrial kingfishers native to Australia and
New Guinea, the name originating from Aboriginal language.
Kookaburras are best known for their unmistakable
call, which is uncannily like loud, echoing human laughter —
good-natured, but rather hysterical, merriment in the case of
the well-known Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae); and
maniacal cackling in the case of the slightly smaller Blue-winged
Kookaburra (D. leachii).
They are generally not closely associated with water, and can
be found in habitats ranging from humid forest to arid savanna,
but also in suburban and residential areas near running water
and where food can be searched for easily.
There are four known species of kookaburras found
in Australia, New Guinea, and the Aru Islands.
Unusual for close relatives, the Laughing and Blue-winged
species are direct competitors in the area where their ranges
overlap. This suggests that the two species, though having common
stock, evolved in isolation (possibly during a period when Australia
and New Guinea were more distant and were only brought back into
contact in relatively recent geological times.
All kookaburras are sexually dimorphic, but this
is only obvious in the Blue-winged and the Rufous-bellied, where
males have blue tails, females rufous.
There are four species of kookaburra;
* Rufous-bellied Kookaburra (Dacelo gaudichaud).
* Spangled Kookaburra (Dacelo tyro).
* Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii).
* Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae).
Kookaburras are carnivorous. They will eat lizards,
snakes, insects, mice, other small birds, and raw meat. The most
social birds will accept handouts from humans and will take raw
or cooked meat (even if at high temperature) from on or near open-air
barbecues left unattended. It is generally not advised to feed
the birds too regularly as meat alone does not include calcium
and other nutrients essential to the bird. Remainders of mince
on the bird's beak can fester and cause problems for the bird.
They are territorial, and often live with the partly
grown chicks of the previous season. They often sing as a chorus
to mark their territory.
In the wild, kookaburras are known to eat babies
of other birds and snakes, and insects and small reptiles and
even other small birds, such as finches if they are lucky enough
to catch them. In zoos, they are usually fed food for birds of
prey, and dead baby chicks.
Two Laughing Kookaburras in a Casuarina tree