The laughing kookaburra will bring a smile to any birder’s face, but there’s a lot more to these distinctive birds than their giggles and guffaws!
Laughing Kookaburra Fun Facts
- The laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) is one of five kookaburra species in the world, along with the blue-winged, spangled, shovel-billed, and rufous-bellied kookaburras. All five species are native to Australia, Papua, Papua New Guinea, and adjacent regions, though the exact ranges vary for each species.
- The laughing kookaburra is the most widespread of the kookaburra species and is found throughout eastern Australia. These birds have also been introduced to Tasmania, parts of New Zealand, and the region of western Australia around Perth.
- Kookaburras are kingfishers and belong to the Alcedinidae bird family, along with more than 100 other kingfisher, dwarf-kingfisher, pygmy-kingfisher, and paradise-kingfisher species.
- All kookaburras are classified as tree kingfishers, also known as wood kingfishers. They are terrestrial birds and aren’t closely tied to water, but instead are found in variety of drier, forested habitats. Laughing kookaburras prefer eucalyptus forests in particular.
- Other names for the laughing kookaburra include the laughing jack-ass, great brown kingfisher, bushman’s clock, kooka, giant kingfisher, and laughing kingfisher.
- Laughing kookaburras are generally monogamous and mate for life. Youngsters from the previous year stay with their parents through the next breeding season, helping raise the next generation of their own siblings. Non-breeding younger birds will share incubation duties, feeding, and nest defense with their parents.
- These kookaburras are adept predators and their thick, powerful bills can kill a wide range of prey, including lizards, frogs, worms, snakes, nestlings, insects, mice, and other small animals. They may even hunt goldfish from backyard ponds. Small prey is swallowed whole, while large prey is bashed against the ground or a rock or branch to kill it first.
- Laughing kookaburras are one of the largest of all the kingfisher species, measuring 15-17 inches long, with a wingspan of 22-26 inches. They can weigh 11-17 ounces, with females generally larger and heavier than males. Other than size, the males and females look alike.
- The laughing kookaburra is a source of pride in Australia, and the laughing kookaburra mascot, Olly, was one of three mascots for the 2000 Olympic summer games in Sydney.
Add the Laughing Kookaburra to Your Life List
The laughing kookaburra is widespread in eastern Australia, and is even likely to be found in suburban areas and urban parks. Visiting the bird’s preferred open woodland or forest edge habitat is best, and it can be easy to see family groups, particularly during the breeding season. To hear the bird’s distinctive call, listen for the cackling laugh at dawn and dusk when the birds vocalize most frequently, though they will occasionally call at any time of day.
These birds are also common in parks, where they can become quite tame and may even be hand-fed or could snatch meat right off a picnic table or grill. It is not recommended to offer scraps to laughing kookaburras, however, as that is not a healthy diet. These birds are also popular guests in zoos and aviaries around the world.
Learn More About the Laughing Kookaburra
There are always more laughs to be had about the laughing kookaburra, and these resources are a great place to start.
- BirdLife International: Detailed range map, including introduced range
- Xeno-Canto: 35+ recordings of these birds’ distinctive laughs
- Best Bird Photos Australia: Small but detailed gallery of laughing kookaburras
- Culture Trip: Detailed discussion of the best places to see laughing kookaburras in the wild
- Be Your Own Birder: Our own ad-free gallery of laughing kookaburra photos