Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

Giant kingfisher, Laughing jackass

Dacelo novaeguineae
Population size
Life Span
11-20 yrs
310-480 g
39-42 cm

The Laughing kookaburra is a large robust kingfisher with a whitish head and a dark eye-stripe. Its upperparts are mostly dark brown but there is a mottled light-blue patch on the wing coverts. The underparts are white and the tail is barred with rufous and black. The plumage of the male and female birds is similar. The territorial call of Laughing kookaburras is a distinctive laugh that is often delivered by several birds at the same time and is widely used as a stock sound effect in situations that involve a jungle setting.


Laughing kookaburras are native to eastern Australia; their range extends from the Cape York Peninsula in the north to Cape Otway in the south. They are present on both the eastern and the western sides of the Great Dividing Range. In the south the range extends westwards from Victoria to the Yorke Peninsula and the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Laughing kookaburras inhabit open sclerophyll forest and woodland. These birds are more common where the understory is open and sparse or where the ground is covered with grass. They also occur near wetlands and in partly cleared areas or farmland with trees along roads and fences. In urban areas, these birds can often be seen in parks and gardens.

Laughing Kookaburra habitat map



Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Laughing kookaburras are diurnal birds and don't migrate. They live in loose family groups and occupy the same territory throughout the year. These family groups consist of a breeding pair and offspring that help the parents hunt and care for a newly hatched generation. Kookaburras hunt much as other kingfishers do; they perch on a convenient branch or wire and wait patiently until they see an animal on the ground and then fly down and pounce on their prey. Laughing kookaburras use their laughter to establish territory among family groups. It can be heard at any time of day, but most frequently at dawn and dusk. One bird usually starts with a low, hiccuping chuckle and then throws its head back in raucous laughter: often several others join in. If a rival tribe is within earshot and replies, the whole family soon gathers to fill the bush with ringing laughter. Hearing kookaburras in full voice is one of the more extraordinary experiences of the Australian bush, something even locals cannot ignore; some visitors, unless forewarned, may find their calls startling.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Laughing kookaburras are carnivores. They mainly feed on mice and similar-sized small mammals, large insects, yabbies, lizards, small birds and nestlings, and most famously, snakes. Kookaburras are also known to take goldfish out of garden ponds.

Mating Habits

starts in October or November
24-29 days
10-13 weeks
3 eggs

Laughing kookaburras are monogamous and form pairs that mate for life. During the mating season, the female adopts a begging posture and vocalizes like a young bird. The male then offers her his current catch accompanied with an "oo oo oo" sound. Kookaburras start breeding around October or November. If the first clutch fails, they will continue breeding into the summer months. These birds usually nest in unlined tree holes or in excavated holes in arboreal termite nests. The female lays 3 eggs at about two-day intervals. Both parents (sometimes helpers) incubate the eggs for 24-29 days. Chicks are altricial; they are hatched naked and helpless. They have a hook on their bill, which disappears by the time of fledging. If there is a shortage in food, the chicks will quarrel, with the hook being used as a weapon. The smallest chick may even be killed by its larger siblings. The chicks are ready to fledge at 32-40 days of age but are still fended by the parents and helpers another 6-8 weeks. Young females usually leave their parents' territory when they are 1-2 years old while males disperse at 2-4 years of age.


Population threats

Laughing kookaburras are not considered threatened at present. However, they suffer from ongoing habitat destruction and poisoning from pesticides.

Population number

According to the Wikipedia resource, the total population size of the Laughing kookaburra is 65 million individuals, including less than 500 individuals in New Zealand. According to the What Bird resource, the total population size of the species is around 800,000 birds. Overall, currently, Laughing kookaburras are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today remain stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Laughing kookaburras are fearless birds! They sometimes hunt large creatures, including venomous snakes that can be much longer than their bodies.
  • In the 19th century the Laughing kookaburra was commonly called the "laughing jackass".
  • The name "kookaburra" comes from Wiradhuri, an endangered Aboriginal language.
  • Laughing kookaburras often eat out of a person's hands and don't hesitate to snatch food out of people's hands without warning, by swooping in from a distance.
  • The call of the Laughing kookaburra has been used in Hollywood movies for decades, usually in jungle settings, beginning with the Tarzan series in the 1930s.


1. Laughing Kookaburra on Wikipedia -
2. Laughing Kookaburra on The IUCN Red List site -

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