Photograph by Medford Taylor
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.
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