My first brush with the Kookaburra was the kiddy song I heard in nursery school. When we sang the popular 'Kookaburra Sits On The Old Gum Tree', probably many of us were completely unaware what the bird actually looked like. They are large kingfishers that are native to Australia and New Guinea. Kookaburras are easily distinguished because of their loud calls―at times they sound like a loud, echoing human laughter, whereas in some cases, they are known to cackle in a merry manner.
There are around four known species of the Kookaburra. The Laughing Kookaburra and the Blue winged Kookaburra, are at times, direct competitors when they inhabit common areas. The Laughing Kookaburra is known for its human laugh, and the Blue Winged Kookaburra has a deep cackle.
There is an interesting story about this extraordinary laugh of the Kookaburra. This bird was first spotted during the era of the Australian aborigines. It is said that when the sun rose for the first time, the God Bayame ordered the Kookaburra to utter its loud laughter, so that it can awaken mankind, and they would witness the beautiful and magnificent sunrise. There was also a myth associated with this bird―any child who insulted it would end up having a slanted tooth.
The Kookaburras are known to occupy woodland territories in family groups. These are territorial and are also known to live with their young for a marked period of time. They use their high-pitched laugh to demarcate their borders as well. These calls are more frequent shortly after dawn. There is also a particular pattern to these calls. When one Kookaburra starts with a low chuckle which ends up in laughter, several other Kookaburras join in as well. At times, another group of these birds may also reply. The effect of all these birds laughing and chuckling together may be quite terrifying to people who are not quite accustomed to it.
Their diet consists of mice, large insects, small birds, and even snakes. The surprising fact about them is that they can take on preys that are larger in size, including deadly, venomous snakes. When bred in captivity, these can be fed with meat and dead baby chicks. Being quite noisy by nature, they need spacious cages to fly around and feel comfortable. Their hunting habits are quite similar to Robins. They perch on a convenient branch or even a wire to wait for a possible prey.
Kookaburras use hollows in tree trunks and excavated termite nests to lay their eggs. The eggs range from two to four, and are pure white in color. The females as well as the males help to incubate the eggs. The young birds stay in the nest for a period of 30 days, and then begin actual flight. Even then, the parents generally feed them for a period of 40 days.