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"The kookaburra is the largest kingfisher in the world!"

Kookaburras, commonly called kookaburras, are a large subgroup of kingfishers. It is diurnal, which means it is most active during the day. They sleep about 12 hours at night. They are commonly found in eucalyptus, which may also be considered an old gum tree . Australian folklore says the kookaburra's morning melody is a cue from the "Heavenly One" who "lights up the sun every morning". Kookaburras are gregarious birds that live in groups.

4 Amazing Kookaburra Facts

  • The kookaburra's call sounds like laughter.
  • Kookaburras belong to the forest kingfisher subfamily.
  • Unlike other kingfishers, kookaburras do not fish.
  • Kookaburras have been known to steal food from snakes.

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evolution and history

Kookaburras belong to the kingfisher family and are believed to have evolved in the northern hemisphere. Based on the fossils found, the kingfisher species date back nearly 40 million years, and their ancestor is thought to be Quasisyndactylus , a small bird that lived about 48 million years ago.


Blue-winged kookaburra close-up.
blue-winged kookaburra

© JeP/Shutterstock.com

In addition to the kookaburra, there are four other species, all of which belong to the kingfisher family. These species are native to eastern Australia, mainly in the Oceania region, and have been introduced to the following areas – Southern Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand and Tasmania.

  • Blue-winged Kookaburra ( Dacelo leachii )
  • Shiny Kookaburra ( Dacelo tyro )
  • Red-bellied Kookaburra ( Dacelo gaudichaud )
  • Spade-billed Kookaburra ( Dacelo rex )

where to find kookaburras

Kookaburras are native to eastern Australia, but have also been introduced to other regions. Kookaburras live mainly in the Oceania region. You can also find these kingfishers in southern Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and Tasmania. Kookaburras also like to inhabit parks, gardens, and sometimes even people's backyards.

The best places to find these fascinating birds are woodland forest areas and wetlands. They live in temperate climates. You might see them in trees or catching prey. It may be easier to hear them than to spot them. Listen to their laugh-like calls at dusk and dawn, and you'll hear whole flocks of kookaburras "singing" loudly together.

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the bird's nest

Male and female kookaburra mates work together to prepare the nest and care for their young. Terrestrial tree kingfishers often take advantage of naturally formed holes in trees and will also burrow into arboreal termite mounds. These mounds are usually about two feet deep and have an entrance about four inches wide.

scientific name

The kookaburra's scientific name is Dacelo novaeguineae . It is also known as the kookaburra or bushman's alarm clock. The Bushman Alarm Clock gets its nickname from the bird's early-morning call that resembles an alarm clock. It is also sometimes called the terrestrial kingfisher. It belongs to the class Aves and the family Aves.

There are three other species of kookaburra: the blue-winged kookaburra (Dacelo leachii) , the red-bellied kookaburra (Dacelo gaudichaud) and the sequined kookaburra (Dacelo tyro) . The word kookaburra comes from the Aboriginal Wiradjuri gugubarra , a parody of the kookaburra-like sound, meaning laughter.

Size, Appearance and Behavior

Happiest Animal: Kookaburra
Kookaburras are known for their call, which sounds like laughter.


Kookaburras typically have brown, white and cream colored bodies. They have dark brown stripes over their eyes. Their plumage can also be gray and black. Males also have blue spots near their tails. Kookaburras usually have brown eyes. Their powerful bills are 8 to 10 cm long. These birds range in height from 15.4 to 16.5 inches and in length from 15 to 17 inches. They usually weigh between 13 and 16 ounces, with females being slightly larger.

The kookaburra's wingspan is more than two feet long and between 25 and 26 inches. There are some neat facts about their defensive functions. Their coloring helps camouflage them in their natural habitat, and they will often puff out their feathers to make themselves appear larger when threatened.

Unlike many other birds, kookaburras do not migrate. They occupy the same territory throughout the year. They don't fly south in winter. Instead, they huddled together for warmth. They are able to regulate their body temperature very well.

The kookaburra is a terrestrial tree kingfisher of the genus Dacelo, native to Australia and New Guinea.
Kookaburras are terrestrial tree kingfishers of the genus Dacelo, native to Australia and New Guinea.



The kookaburra is a carnivore, which means it only eats the flesh of other animals. It perches in trees and watches for approaching prey. When it spots prey, the kookaburra swoops down and grabs it with its powerful beak. One of the scarier facts about this species is the way it kills its food. It repeatedly strikes its prey against hard surfaces, such as tree branches, beating and robbing it of life and making it softer before eating. If the prey is small enough, the kookaburra will skip the beating and swallow it whole.

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What do kookaburras eat?

Kookaburras eat many animals, including snakes, large insects, crustaceans, rodents, frogs and small birds. Bird eggs are also part of a kookaburra's diet. When kept in captivity, such as in zoos, kookaburras are also often fed by mice, mealworms and crickets.

Predators and Threats

Australian native wild Kookaburra, perched, isolated on white.
Kookaburras face habitat loss due to wildfires.


The main threat facing kookaburras in the wild is habitat loss. Wildfires in Australia are to blame for the destruction of their homes. Human poaching of these incredible animals for the pet trade is also a threat to wild populations. Sadly, kookaburras are sometimes indirectly poisoned by pesticides that kill rodents and other invasive species that are easy food for these birds. The IUCN lists these birds as Least Concern on the Red List, with stable populations. Kookaburras also have many natural enemies.

What eating kookaburra?

Birds of prey such as hawks, owls, falcons and hawks will eat kookaburras. Large reptiles such as pythons and monitor lizards also feed on them. Other predators include quolls, foxes, and even pet cats. These animals, in particular, may take advantage of vulnerable chicks, snatching them from the nest.

Breeding, Pups, and Moulting

Side view of a baby kookaburra just emerging from the nest.
At birth, the baby does not have any feathers.

© TRoss Jones/Shutterstock.com

Kookaburras are a monogamous species and they stay together for life. Mating season occurs between August and January. Both males and females will call to each other, and the male will bring food to the female in preparation for mating.

Kookaburra mothers lay two to four eggs. After 25 to 29 days, the eggs hatch and chicks are born. At birth, the chicks do not yet have any feathers. Sometimes, in competition for food, the chicks will attack and kill the youngest among them. During and after hatching, the siblings will help care for the new cubs. Chicks are fed for about a month before leaving the nest, but they stay with their families for up to four years. They reach sexual maturity at about one year old.

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Kookaburras molt each year in late winter and early spring. Kookaburras have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years in the wild and more than 20 years in captivity.


The exact number of kookaburras in the wild cannot be determined. While there are no definitive counts of these birds, numbers are believed to be stable. The conservation status of the kookaburra is "Least Concern" and there are currently no significant threats of population decline.

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Kookaburras are terrestrial tree kingfishers.

No, kookaburras don't migrate.

Kookaburras lay an average of two to four eggs.

The kookaburra is a slow flying bird. It can fly at a speed of about 20 miles per hour.

The kookaburra has a wingspan of 25 to 26 inches and is more than two feet long.

Kookaburras leave the nest when they are about a month old, but will stay nearby for a while as helpers.

The kookaburra's call sounds similar to human laughter. It also has sharp changes.

Kookaburras are friendly and seem to tolerate humans well.

The kookaburra's "laugh" is actually a territorial call. It warns others not to enter their territory.

Yes, kookaburras will kill and eat smaller birds if given the chance.

The kookaburra probably owes its fame to an Australian song called the kookaburra . It is often called kookaburra song or kookaburra sitting on old eucalyptus . The song is a nursery rhyme by Marion Sinclair.