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|Laughing kookaburra in Tasmania, Australia|
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Kookaburras are terrestrial tree kingfishers of the genus Dacelo native to Australia and New Guinea, which grow to between 28–42 cm (11–17 in) in length. The name is a loanword from Wiradjuri guuguubarra, onomatopoeic of its call. The single member of the genus Clytoceyx is commonly referred to as the shovel-billed kookaburra.
The kookaburra's loud call sounds like echoing human laughter. They are found in habitats ranging from humid forest to arid savanna, as well as in suburban areas with tall trees or near running water. Even though they belong to the larger group known as "kingfishers", kookaburras are not closely associated with water.
Classification and species
Four species of kookaburra can be found in Australia, New Guinea, and the Aru Islands.
Kookaburras are sexually dimorphic. This is noticeable in the blue-winged and the rufous-bellied, where males have blue tails and females have reddish-brown tails.
- Rufous-bellied kookaburra (Dacelo gaudichaud). (lowland New Guinea, Saibai island and Australia)
- Spangled kookaburra (Dacelo tyro). (Aru Islands, southern New Guinea and Australia)
- Blue-winged kookaburra (Dacelo leachii). (northern Australia, southern New Guinea)
- Laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae). (native to eastern Australia, introduced to southwest) Unusually for close relatives, the laughing and blue-winged species are direct competitors in the area where their ranges now overlap. This suggests that these two species evolved in isolation (possibly during a period when Australia and New Guinea were more distant – see Australia-New Guinea.
Kookaburras are almost exclusively carnivorous, eating mice, snakes, insects, small reptiles, and the young of other birds; they have also been known to take goldfish from garden ponds. In zoos they are usually fed food for birds of prey.
The most social birds will accept handouts and will take meat from barbecues. It is generally not advised to feed kookaburras ground beef or pet food as these do not include enough calcium and roughage.
All kookaburra species are listed as Least Concern. Australian law protects native birds including kookaburras.
The distinctive sound of the laughing kookaburra's call is used in filmmaking and television productions, as well as certain Disney theme park attractions, regardless of African, Asian and South American jungle settings. Kookaburras have also appeared in video games (Lineage II, Battletoads, and World of Warcraft) and at least in one short story (Barry Wood's Nowhere to Go).
The children's television series Splatalot! includes an Australian character called "Kookaburra" (or "Kook"), whose costume includes decorative wings that recall the bird's plumage, and who is noted for his distinctive high-pitched laugh.
- "Kookaburra [sits in the old gum tree]", a well-known children's song
- "Kookaburra", by Cocteau Twins, released on their EP Aikea-Guinea
- "Kookaburra" by John Vanderslice on his 2007 album Emerald City
- The Kookaburras, an English band from the County Durham.
- The lyric "...the Laughing Kookaburras call.." appears in the song "Across the Hills of Home" on the album Something of Value by Eric Bogle
- BFD Records and BFD Productions, which are the distributors and/or copyright holders of most of the garage rock and psychedelic rock compilation albums in the Pebbles series, have the address Kookaburra, Australia.
- A six pence stamp was issued in 1914.
- A three pence commemorative Australian stamp was issued for the 1928 Melbourne International Philatelic Exhibition,
- A six pence stamp issued in 1932.
- A 38c Australian stamp issued in 1990 features a pair of kookaburras.
- An international $1.70 Australian stamp featuring an illustrated kookaburra was released in 2013.
- Peters, James Lee, ed. (1945). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 5. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 189.
- Leach, William Elford (1815). The Zoological Miscellany; being descriptions of new, or interesting Animals. Volume 2. London: B. McMillan for E. Nodder & Son. p. 125.
- Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 130. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
- Giles, Jennie (1994). "Caring for Wild Birds in Captivity Series (Adelaide and Environs): Caring for Kookaburras" (PDF). Bird Care & Conservation Society South Australia Inc. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
- Legge, Sarah (2004). Kookaburra: King of the Bush. Collingwood, Vic: CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 978-0-643-09063-7. OCLC 223994691.
- Bird Stamps of Australia
- "Australian Kookaburra". Silver Bullion World. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
- Maritime Topics On Stamps, America Cup, Sailing
- Hockey Australia: Kookaburras
- Kookaburra sketches and calls at the Australian National Botanic Gardens site. Archived from the original on 2008-07-20. Retrieved 2010-09-03.
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