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Species Spotlight: The Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing kookaburra

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!

— Marion Sinclair

Whether you know it or not you’re probably familiar with the Laughing Kookaburra. This iconic Australian bird, which ranks among the emu and kangaroo as one of the most popular animal symbols of Australia, is also a secret movie star. The Laughing Kookaburra’s name stems from its iconic call. This sound is said to resemble laughter, though you more likely know it as the sound of the jungle. In movies, especially those set in wild uncharted jungles, the Laughing Kookaburra’s call is used as a background noise that sets the tone for a jungle adventure. Although it might sound like a monkey, the Laughing Kookaburra’s call wouldn’t actually be heard in most movie settings, as this bird is native to Australia alone.

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Fun Facts About the Laughing Kookaburra

Its loud and wild-sounding call might be famous around the globe, but most people don’t know that it’s the Laughing Kookaburra they’re hearing. Let’s dive into some Laughing Kookaburra fun facts to see what else this unique bird has to offer!

Fishing for snakes: The Laughing Kookaburra is a member of the kingfisher family. At first, this might come as a surprise, but take a closer look at the large head and long wide bill of the Laughing Kookaburra. They may look a bit different on the surface, but it’s plain to see that the Kookaburra is a close relative to the kingfishers found all over the world. Unlike other kingfishers, though, the Laughing Kookaburra isn’t famous for eating fish. Instead, these birds use their fishing skills to hunt for snakes, including some of Australia’s notoriously deadly venomous snakes. Laughing Kookaburras swoop down and snatch their prey and then bring them to their perch where they beat them against it until death. This is actually very similar to how other kingfishers hunt fish! Laughing Kookaburras are opportunistic hunters and eat a huge variety of prey, including insects, small reptiles, mammals, and even other birds on occasion.

Kookaburra coinage: The Laughing Kookaburra is a major national symbol of Australia’s unique native wildlife. As such, it is featured on silver coins distributed by Australia’s Perth mint.

Like clockwork: The Laughing Kookaburra’s famous call is sometimes referred to as the “Bushman’s Clock.” This is because Laughing Kookaburras are said to call at dawn and dusk with exceptional consistency. Out in the bush, it is said that you can tell the time of day from the timing of the Laughing Kookaburra’s call.

Feathered families: Laughing Kookaburras live in family units. After their young are all grown up and fledged, they stick around to help mom and dad raise the next generation of Laughing Kookaburras. This sounds very sweet, but sibling tenderness goes out the window when food is scarce. Fellow nestlings will fight and even kill each other during lean times in order to get as much food as possible for themselves.

The Future of the Laughing Kookaburra

Although its role in cinema has associated the Laughing Kookaburra with the wilderness, these birds have actually adapted pretty seamlessly to human habitation. In fact, they are common suburban birds in much of their range and have avoided the sharp decline in numbers that many other birds experience when human civilizations move in. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the Laughing Kookaburra as “Least Concern.”

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