The four species of Kookaburras (Dacelo) are kingfishers found in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands.
The Rufous-bellied Kookaburra (D. gaudichaud) is found in the New Guinea lowlands and nearby islands. This large kingfisher is found mainly in the lower canopy of monsoon and riverine forest, but also in primary rainforest, floodplain forest, parkland, secondary growth, thick coastal palm scrub, mangroves, and gardens. It may also use isolated patches of land in cleared areas, and Teak (Tectona grandis) or Rain Tree (Samanea saman) plantations. For breeding, Rufous-bellied Kookaburras require arboreal termitaria. Although these kingfishers are generally found below 500 m elevation, they have been recorded up to 1300 m. The diet consists of arthropods and small vertebrates, with most foraging in the lower canopy. The nest is excavated in an active termite nest, typically 2 to 40 m above the ground in a tree. Clutch size is 2 eggs and young are fed by both parents. Rufous-bellied Kookaburras are common and widely distributed in New Guinea.
Spangled Kookaburras (D. tyro) are found in southern New Guinea and (historically) the Aru Islands in wooded dry savanna, in thickets of Dillenea alata on swamp margins, and in mosaics of monsoon forest, thickets, and Melaleuca savanna woodland, as well as in dense monsoon and riverine forest. They keep mostly to the understorey, feeding mainly from a perch 1 to 4 m high. The Spangled Kookaburra's nest is excavated in a termitarium above the ground (it is possible that tree cavities are used as well). Although the Spangled Kookaburra is relatively common within its range, the restricted distribution make the species somewhat vulnerable.
Blue-winged Kookaburras (D. leachii) are found in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. They occur in savanna woodland and Eucalyptus open woodland and forest, in tall trees and woodland along watercourses, and in riverine and littoral mangrove and monsoon forest. They avoid areas with a dense understorey. They may also be found in pastures and cultivated land with stands of trees, in plantations far from water, and in large suburban parks and gardens. Although they are found mainly in the lowlands in New Guinea, they can be found locally to 600 m. Where its range overlaps with that of the Laughing Kookaburra (D. novaeguineae), the Blue-winged Kookaburra is usually more common away from water. The diet includes a wide variety of arthropods, snails, earthworms, and small vertebrates. Blue-winged Kookaburras hunts from a perch, typically 2 to 4 m above the ground. They may breed as a pair or in a group of up to 12 individals, but most commonly in a group of 3. The extra "helper(s)" are young from the previous several years. Nests are in tree cavities or in termite nests on the ground or in trees. Blue-winged Kookaburras are fairly common over most of their range.
The Laughing Kookaburra (D. novaeguineae) is found in eastern and southwestern Australia in Eucalyptus forest and woodland, using riparian trees along major watercourses to extend inland or into primary forest. Laughing Kookaburras are also found on wooded and cleared farmland and in city parks and suburban gardens so long as appropriate nesting cavities are available. In some areas of overlap with the Blue-winged Kookaburra, the two species are interspecifically territorial; in other areas, Blue-winged Kookaburras use drier habitats. The Laughing Kookaburra's well studied diet includes earthworms, snails, diverse arthropods, and small vertebrates. Most prey is taken from the ground. Snakes up to 1 m long may be grabbed behind the head, beaten violently on the ground or on a perch, then swallowed head first. Scraps may be taken at picnic areas. Undigested food is regurgitated as pellets, which accumulate beneath regular roosting sites. A breeding pair is often assisted by 4 or 5 "helpers", mostly male young from previous years. Lifespan in the wild is up to around 11 years. The Laughing Kookaburra is common over most of its range and has generally benefited from human settlement, although density declines where farmland is converted to housing.
(Woodall 2001 and references therein)
- Woodall, P.F. 2001. Genus Dacelo. Pp. 200-203 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J., eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 6. Mousebirds to Hornbills. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
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Kookaburras (genus Dacelo) are terrestrial tree kingfishers native to Australia and New Guinea. They are large to very large, with a total length of 28–42 cm (11–17 in). The name is a loanword from Wiradjuri guuguubarra, and is onomatopoeic of its call. The single member of the genus Clytoceyx, though commonly referred to as the Shovel-billed Kookaburra, is not treated in this article.
Kookaburras are best known for their unmistakable call, which sounds uncannily like loud, echoing human laughter – good-natured, but rather hysterical, merriment in the case of the renowned Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae); and maniacal cackling in the case of the slightly smaller Blue-winged Kookaburra (D. leachii). They are generally not closely associated with water, and can be found in habitats ranging from humid forest to arid savanna, but also in suburban and residential areas with tall trees or near running water and where food can be searched for easily.
Classification and species 
There are four known species of kookaburra found in Australia, New Guinea, and the Aru Islands.
All kookaburras are sexually dimorphic, but this is only obvious in the Blue-winged and the Rufous-bellied, where males have noticeably blue tails and females have rufous (reddish-brown) tails.
- Rufous-bellied Kookaburra (Dacelo gaudichaud). (lowland New Guinea, Saibai island)
- Spangled Kookaburra (Dacelo tyro). (Aru Islands, southern New Guinea)
- Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii). (northern Australia, southern New Guinea)
- Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae). (native to eastern Australia, introduced to southwest Australia)
Unusually for close relatives, the Laughing and Blue-winged species are direct competitors in the area where their ranges overlap. This suggests that the two species, though having common stock, evolved in isolation (possibly during a period when Australia and New Guinea were more distant – see Australia-New Guinea) and were only brought back into contact in relatively recent geological times. It is the largest kingfisher
Kookaburras are carnivorous. In the wild, kookaburras are known to eat the young of other birds, mice, snakes, insects and small reptiles and other small birds, such as finches if they are lucky enough to catch them. In zoos, they are usually fed food for birds of prey, and dead baby chicks.
Kookaburras will eat lizards, snakes, insects, mice, other small birds, and raw meat. The most social birds will accept handouts from humans and will take raw or cooked meat (even if at high temperature) from on or near open-air barbecues left unattended. It is generally not advised to feed kookaburras too regularly as meat alone does not include calcium and other nutrients essential to the bird. Remainders of mince on the bird's beak can fester and cause problems for the bird.
All four kookaburra species remain listed as Least Concern, though habitat destruction remains of some concern.
In culture 
Although kookaburras are restricted to a relatively small part of the world, the distinctive sound of the Laughing Kookaburra makes has found its way onto many "jungle sound" soundtracks, used in filmmaking and television productions as well as certain Disney theme park attractions, no matter where in the world the action is set. They 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"). His costume includes decorative wings that recall the bird's plumage, and is noted for his distinctive high-pitched laugh.
- A well-known children's song, Kookaburra
- Kookaburra, by Cocteau Twins, released on their EP Aikea-Guinea
- Kookaburra by John Vanderslice on 2007's Emerald City (album)
- 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), are shown as having an address of Kookaburra, Australia.
Postage stamps 
- A 6d (6 penny) stamp was issued in 1914.
- The 2nd commemorative Australian stamp to be issued was the 3d blue Kookaburra. The stamp was produce in sheets of four for the 1928 Melbourne International Philatelic Exhibition and was only the fourth miniature sheet to be manufactured anywhere in the world.
- A 38c Australian stamp was issued around 1990 and features a pair of kookaburras.
There has been an Australian coin known as the Silver Kookaburra minted annually since 1990.
Further reading 
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