Physical characteristics: Laughing kookaburras are the largest of the kingfishers, with a dark brown and white body, blue rump, and reddish tail with white-tipped outer tail feathers and blue-tipped wing coverts (feathers between flight feathers of the wing and tail). They have a dark stripe through their eyes. The blunt, heavy bill is black in color above and horn-colored below. Their small feet are used mainly for perching. They are from 15 to 17 inches (39 to 42 centimeters) long, and weigh between 7 and 16 ounces (190 and 465 grams).
Geographic range: Laughing kookaburras are located in eastern and southwestern Australia.
Habitat: Laughing kookaburras are found in dry and open eucalyptus forests and woodlands, and often are seen in parks and gardens that border such areas.
Diet: Laughing kookaburras eat mostly insects, beetles, grasshoppers, and spiders, but also eat small vertebrates, such as snakes,
Laughing kookaburras get their name from the cackling sounds they make. (Kike Calvo/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
lizards, mice, and small birds. When spotting prey, they swoop down to pick up small animals. They usually eat alone.
Behavior and reproduction: A breeding pair and its mature offspring are often heard cackling at dawn. When in defense of their territory, laughing kookaburras often have their heads stretched up and tails raised while making cackling sounds. During the day, they are often seen perched motionless in dense foliage, looking for prey.
The male and female breed for life, and share the raising of their latest brood with older offspring. Nests are usually made in natural cavities, but can be formed from termite nests or soft dead wood. Females lay from one to five eggs. The incubation period is between twenty-four and twenty-nine days, with the female performing most of the duties, and other members performing other chores. The nestling period is from thirty-two to forty days. Young birds stay with their parents for several years as helpers.
Laughing kookaburras and people: People in Australia are very familiar with the life of laughing kookaburras, and the birds are a well-known emblem of the country.
Conservation status: Laughing kookaburras are not threatened, being widespread and common. In fact, the species grows in numbers when humans develop previously undeveloped areas such as parks and gardens, where the birds can safely look for food under leaf litter and mulch. ■
Rufous-coiiared kingfisher (Actenoides concretus) Resident
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