Laughing Kookaburra

Dacelo novaeguineae

Kookaburras are often heard around the fringes of Adelaide where the remnant bush meets the suburbs.Photo: John Spiers

The Laughing Kookaburra is arguably the best-known bird in Australia, an icon, and only occurs here in Australia. Their laughing raucous calls are one the most distinctive sounds of the Australian bush. Kookaburras are dryland kingfishers, and despite their name they do not prey on fish.

They live on a variety of insects and small animals such as skinks; basically, anything they find on the ground, that they think they can swallow. Famously, this includes snakes up to 1 metre long. They spend long periods watching before swooping down onto their prey. Larger prey is beaten against a branch or dropped from a height to subdue it.

Kookaburras are co-operative breeders living in groups of 2-9. The group holds a territory all year which all members of the family defend using their ‘laughing call’. The alpha pair mate for life and their helpers are offspring of previous years. They are hole nesters, breeding in spring and early summer.


Kookaburras are quite unmistakable and known by most Australians, and are the largest member of the kingfisher family. They have a white head and breast, dark brown upper parts with blue patches on rump and wing coverts, and an extremely large bill. Males and females are alike with females being slightly larger.

Where to find it

Kookaburras are to be found wherever there are open  forests or woodland, particularly gum trees, with a sparse understorey of shrubs. They are often near creeks and rivers, where larger trees tend to occur, with hollows large enough for them to nest in. They may often be seen and heard in suburbs adjacent to the Adelaide hills. It was introduced to Kangaroo Island.