Photo: A laughing kookaburra

At up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) in length, the laughing kookaburra is the largest member of the Kingfisher family. Their stout beaks can grow to 4 inches (10 centimeters).

Photograph by Medford Taylor

Map

Map: Laughing kookaburra range

Laughing Kookaburra Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Bird
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in captivity:
Up to 20 years
Size:
15 to 18 in (39 to 45 cm)
Weight:
13 to 16 oz (368 to 455 g)
Did you know?
Noisy early morning and evening choruses have earned the laughing kookaburra the nickname “bushman’s clock.”
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Laughing kookaburra compared with adult man

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.

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 (455 grams) and growing to 18 inches (45 centimeters) in length. Its beak can reach 4 inches (10 centimeters) 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.

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.”

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.

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