The Laughing Kookaburra is one of the larger members of the kingfisher family and recognised by its voice. Generally off-white with brown barred wings.
The Laughing Kookaburra is instantly recognisable in both plumage and voice. It is generally off-white below, faintly barred with dark brown, and brown on the back and wings.
The tail is more rufous, broadly barred with black and there is a conspicuous dark brown eye-stripe through the face. It is one of the larger members of the kingfisher family with an average size of 42cm.
The chuckling voice that gives this species its name is a common and familiar sound throughout the bird’s range. The loud ‘koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-kaa-kaa-kaa’ is often sung in a chorus with other individuals. The Laughing Kookaburra also has a shorter ‘koooa. Bird call recorded by: Fred Van Gessel
Laughing Kookaburras are found throughout eastern Australia. They have been introduced to Tasmania, the extreme south-west of Western Australia, and New Zealand.
Replaced by the Blue-winged Kookaburra in central northern and north-western Australia, with some overlap in Queensland, although this species is more coastal.
The Laughing Kookaburra inhabits most areas where there are suitable trees.
In eastern Australia, the raucous cackle of the Laughing Kookaburra is an essential feature of the dawn chorus. They can be heard laughing from the tip of Cape York south to Wilsons Promontory.
The species’ occurrence in other parts of Australia, however, is no laughing matter. Kookaburras were widely introduced into Tasmania and Western Australia where they breed in tree hollows that would usually be used by parrots and owls, and they prey on small reptiles, mammals and nestlings, thus placing undue pressure on those creatures.
The Laughing Kookaburra is not really laughing when it makes its familiar call. The cackle of the Laughing Kookaburra is actually a territorial call to warn other birds to stay away.
Laughing Kookaburras feed mostly on insects, worms and crustaceans, although small snakes, mammals, frogs and birds may also be eaten.
Prey is seized by pouncing from a suitable perch. Small prey is eaten whole, but larger prey is killed by bashing it against the ground or tree branch.
Laughing Kookaburras are believed to pair for life. The nest is a bare chamber in a naturally occurring tree hollow or in a burrow excavated in an arboreal (tree-dwelling) termite mound.
Both sexes share the incubation duties and both care for the young.
Other Laughing Kookaburras, usually offspring of the previous one to two years, act as ‘helpers’ during the breeding season. Every bird in the group shares all parenting duties. Clutch size is 2 to 3 eggs with an incubation period of 25 days. The breeding season is from August to January.