Laughing Kookaburra

Photo: FNPW Image Library

Laughing Kookaburra

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What do Kookaburras look like?

There are two kinds of Kookaburras in Australia, the Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) and the Blue Winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii). Recognisable both by looks and voice, the Kookaburra has an off-white stomach and dark brown back and wings.

The Laughing Kookaburra has dark brown eyes and a stripe running across their face. 

The Blue-winged Kookaburra lacks the brown stripe across the eye and has a blue tail and distinctive silver-blue line on its wings

Where are Kookaburras found?

Laughing Kookaburras live in eastern Australia, Tasmania and the south-west of Western Australia wherever there are suitable trees.

The Blue-winged Kookaburra can be found in central northern and north-western Australia.

Fast facts:

  1. The kookaburras distinctive “laugh” is actually warning other kookaburras to stay out of their territory.
  2. Kookaburras can live for more than 20 years and have the same mate for life. Young kookaburras stay with the family for several years and family groups of more than 6 are common.

Laughing Kookaburra – the full story

The Laughing Kookaburra is one of the most well-loved birds of our backyards. They are often seen on fences, trees and rooftops. Laughing Kookaburras are easily recognized by their ‘Koo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-haa-haa-haa-haa‘ call which sounds like a cackling laugh.

Laughing Kookaburras live in eastern Australia, Tasmania and the south-west of Western Australia wherever there are suitable trees.

Kookaburras often stay with their families for several years. You may see a family around your area or backyard with six or more Kookaburras. They mate for life and build their nests in a tree hollow or in a burrow excavated from a termite mound. Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the chicks.

Kookaburras are aggressive predators that can deftly swoop down to the forest floor in order to catch their prey. You might see a Kookaburra as it swoops on the leaf litter of your garden in search of skinks, lizards and insects to eat. They feed mostly on insects, worms and crustaceans, and sometimes on small snakes, mammals, frogs and birds. Small prey is eaten whole, but larger prey is killed by bashing it against the ground or tree branch.

Be a Backyard Buddy

Having a large range of native shrubs and trees in your backyard gives Kookaburras plenty of sticks and leaves to build a nest with.

Having local native plants in your garden will also attract lizards and insects such as native bees and stick insects, which provide a tasty treat for Kookaburras.

Kookaburras love:

  • Rummaging through leaf litter and grass in search of grubs, lizards and other creepy crawlies.
  • Building nests within large tree hollows or termite mounds.
  • Frolicking in creeks and rivers to wash their wings and feathers.

But they don’t like:

  • Insects that have been poisoned with pesticides.
  • Exposed areas that don’t have enough big trees for shelter or nesting.

Try to:


  • Feeding Kookaburras by hand, as they might mistake your finger for food and give you a nip.
  • Using pesticides that can poison insects that Kookaburras feed on.
  • Cutting down old, large trees that Kookaburras might nest in.

Don’t be surprised if Laughing Kookaburras:

  • Bang their prey against trees or rocks. The Kookaburra does this to kill and soften their food before they eat it.
  • Are seen eating a snake. Kookaburras have the skills and the beak to successfully hunt large and dangerous prey, so they are great buddies to have around your place.
  • Nest in a termite mound, as this gives them shelter and provides a safe nesting space.
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