Australia · birds · books · knowledge · Mount Warning · native Australian birds · photography · respect · Tweed Valley · University · winter

Kookaburras in the Mist

‘Twas another misty morning today. The mist wasn’t as thick as it has been recently, but it looked lovely all the same.

The mist sat in pretty pockets all through the valley, like a puffy layer of cotton wool blanketing the earth.

Another beautiful sight in the valley was a pair of kookaburras perched on a strong branch in a gum tree.

I completed a university assignment yesterday for the diploma course I started last year, the Diploma of Sustainable Living. I’ve been slotting a unit in here and there amid the Bachelor of Arts I started in second semester of 2017, and so far I’m coping okay. Units are often on offer during out-of-semester time slots, but this semester I’m studying one unit for the diploma and two for the BA, all at the same time.

The assignment I completed yesterday was for a unit I’m doing called Backyard Biodiversity. We were asked to choose one creature, be it birds, amphibian, mammal, or whatever else we may have seen in our yard, research the requirements for our chosen backyard buddy, then answer a series of questions for the assignment.

Any guesses on who I chose? 😉

The Laughing Kookaburra, (Dacelo novaeguineae) is a most interesting little character, which I already knew of course. But even I had a lot to learn about the habits of these gorgeous guys who visit my garden daily. I’ll add the information here straight from my assignment  –

“Discuss the biological needs of your selected species:

  • For food, this species requires: worms, insects, lizards, snails, grasshoppers, small snakes, and unfortunately, amphibians. Kookaburras are carnivores, and also eat small mammals, rats and mice. They occasionally eat crustaceans. When larger items of food are caught, a kookaburra will bash their meal against a tree branch or on the ground to kill, or “tenderise” the food before eating it.
  • For shelter, this species requires: large eucalyptus trees with strong branches and natural hollows to shelter in. Kookaburras are family orientated and choose favourite trees in which to sleep together for approximately twelve hours each night. They often begin and end the day with a collective raucous chorus of “laughter”. In cold or wet weather, kookaburras huddle together for warmth in their chosen tree for lengthy periods of time.
  • For water, this species requires: clean water for drinking, although similar to owls, most of a kookaburra’s water requirement is obtained through their food. Being the largest members of the Kingfisher family, however, they enjoy bathing in water, therefore need to have access to water for this purpose.
  • For space, this species requires: a large area with plenty of eucalyptus trees. Kookaburras live in large, sociable family groups, they mate for life, and the dominant breeding pair of the group keep their young with them after reaching maturity to help tend future clutches. Kookaburras also occupy forests and woodlands, ideally where open ground areas offer clear visibility for spotting food. Kookaburras are territorial and their territory can cover several hectares of space, but they are respectful of other kookaburra families and will not encroach on spaces already claimed.
  • Other things this species requires are: safe retreats from predators. A main enemy of the kookaburra is domestic animals. During September to January, which is their breeding season, kookaburras also require a safe hollow in a tree which is large enough for the mother to lay approximately one to four eggs. Elevated termite mounds can also be hollowed out to build their nests in.”

I’ve always suspected the twelve kookaburras who visit my garden were one family, and now I can relate that information to my lovely visitors – my original visitor, who I named Larry, always came into my garden alone. After a while he brought along a little lady friend who I named Shilo. Those two kookaburras have learned to trust me, and I can now hand-feed both of them. They still visit.

Meanwhile, the family has grown. I had always wondered if other kookaburras had joined my original family from elsewhere, but from what I have read, Larry and Shilo are the dominant breeding pair, making all the rest siblings who remain with their family.

I also read that kookaburras are usually the first birds you’ll hear in the morning and the last you’ll hear at night. Just after finishing my assignment, I went out into my garden, and what did I hear? A collective chorus of kookaburras, laughing, right down the bottom of my garden! They may have a favorite tree just beyond my yard, but the were close. With my new-found understanding of their habits, hearing the kookaburras last night, right on nightfall when there were no other bird-sounds to be heard, I felt privileged to know they were so close, and that they had chosen a “favourite” tree to rest in so close to my home.

I have also learned this week that kookaburras were seen by the early settlers in Australia, and were noted as a species of bird they had never seen before. In 1788, the kookaburra was identified as a “Giant brown Kingfisher”. I found this information in a book I just bought called Journals of the First Fleet, which is the journal entries of Captain Arthur Phillip and Lieutenant General Watkin Tench, who both arrived in Australia with the first fleet of convicts, brought here to settle on our shores. Many of these convicts, mainly from England and Ireland, are the ancestors of Australia’s current inhabitants.

1788 drawing of a kookaburra.

The drawing depicts details of the Great brown Kingfisher which we can easily identify as our Laughing Kookaburra. And here is the information accompanying the picture, and written in the 1788 journal …

Isn’t it strange to think we see the very same birds species today, even sounding the same, as they did back in 1788? Barbara spoke about this concept in her post The Continuation of Life. Since I read Barbara’s post, the thought has remained with me, and every now and then I try to drag past situations into the current age. I have also tried to “see” things from the point of view of people who lived 200 years ago. I don’t believe it is possible to understand what life was like for people living so many years ago, nor do I believe it is fair for us to place judgements on them based on the values we have today. Yet my contemplations have made people of the past seem more “real” somehow, although that’s another concept that is difficult to explain. Of course they are real! But it is difficult to imagine them as real because we didn’t know them.

I wonder if that is why lately people the world over are showing so little respect for people of the past? You know the people I mean, those who are trying to rewrite history books and smash statues that are there to honour the achievements and sacrifices people of the past made in an effort to forge a better world for future generations.

It is not for us to judge the decisions made by people who lived so long ago. No one can change the past, and as life continues, so different to the way it was 200 years ago, I find it comforting to realise that those early settlers heard and saw the same Laughing Kookaburras that I admire every day in my garden.

7 thoughts on “Kookaburras in the Mist

  1. How wonderful that you learned so much about Larry & Shilo’s enchanting kookaburra family. Your pictures, portraits really, are amazing! When you hand feed them, what do you give them?

    I just listened to a video of a kookaburra. He really does sound like he is howling with laughter! Imagining you listening in your garden… And imagining the first settlers of Australia listening to them…

    Apparently we have one species of kingfisher here in Connecticut, a belted kingfisher, but I haven’t spotted one yet. Some have posted pictures of them in the Connecticut Birds Facebook group, so maybe someday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just feed the kookaburras a small amount of minced beef, Barbara, and just in the mornings. I don’t want any of the birds to become reliant on me feeding them an easy meal, they have to search for their food too, like nature intended them to do.
      It would be wonderful for you to see a belted kingfisher some time. I know we have other birds around our area too, that we rarely see, so I just keep watching and hoping. And my camera is always waiting and ready. 🙂


  2. You combined your studies AND your blog today! It would be lovely to see (and hear) a kookaburra. Like Barbara, we have kingfishers here. (Not sure about belted.) They aren’t spotted too regularly, but I have seen them perching on phone wires above rivers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I should try recording the kookaburras laughing in my garden so I can post a video here, Kathy! Perhaps I could record them on my phone … I’ll see what I can arrange. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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