Laughing Kookaburra

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Class:  Aves           
Family:  Alcedinidae 

scientific name: Dacelo novaeguineae 

Range:  The kookaburra thrives in eastern and southern Australia.  It does not migrate.  Recently, it has been introduced into west Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand

Habitat
:   Kookaburras live in medium to dense woodland areas in that are typically wet and cold.  They can also be found in parks and gardens, often feeding on the ground.

Social structure:  Kookaburras are territorial and live in groups of 3 or 4 consisting of a breeding pair and helpers. The helpers aid in nesting duties and in territorial defense and are usually the older siblings still in the nest. They pair for life and remain in their territory throughout the year.

Physical Characteristics
:  The Kookaburra is 18 inches (45cm) long and weighs approximately one pound (.5 kg). It has a large square head with brown cheek patches on its face. Their feathers are brown with a grayish white underside and dark bands on the tail. It is a stocky bird with a long, dagger-like beak. Males, females, as well as their offspring (over 3 months) are identical in physical appearance as well as vocal behavior.    

Active:  During the daylight hours.

Behavior
:  Kookaburras are generally peaceful. Sparring occurs when two kookaburras lock beaks and try to twist each other off the perch. This test is used to establish dominance between males.    It has a prominent bony ridge in the back of its skull, like the Kingfisher (It is the largest member of the Kingfisher family), and strong muscles in the neck that aid in killing prey. It accomplishes this task by bashing its victims against its perch.  Their flight is heavy and undulating, usually short. It is an “ambush” predator, spending much of its time on a conspicuous perch "fly-catching" - scanning for prey, flying to catch it and returning to the same perch.  The outstanding feature of the kookaburra is the sound it makes.  It is sounds very similar to a full boisterous human laugh. The song's cycle starts with a low chuckle 'ooo' and then goes into a high 'ha ha ha' and then back into a low chuckle. It can usually be heard in the early morning and early evening, yearlong, especially present during the few months before the breeding season. The call is begun by one family member, the others joining in with a staggered pattern. Each bird begins with a partial call, increasing in intensity and duration until the full laugh is taken up by all. The bill is pointed high and the tail is raised and lowered throughout the duration of the call.
 
Diet:  In the wild it will eat small reptiles, insects, crabs, eggs and nestlings, occasionally young chicks and small mammals.  At the zoo it is fed a bird-of-prey mix, meat, mice and crickets.  
 
Reproduction:
  The Kookaburra's nest is usually 30 feet high in the air and is typically found in a hole in the Mountain Gum Tree. The female lays between two and four pure white eggs, usually one day apart. The incubation period lasts 24-26 days. When hatched, the chicks are naked and blind, but are generally the same size as the adult. However, both their beaks and tails are shorter than those of the adults. Their beaks are black when born, but as the first three months elapse they turn a bone color. Additionally, their plumage tends to be darker when the young are first hatched because it is new, but it lightens in the first six months. Sexual maturity and adulthood are reached at one year of age. The adult breeding pair usually has one or more auxiliaries (helpers) who are typically the young who were born the previous year.
 
Lifespan:  20 years

Conservation:  Threatened by habitat destruction and newcomers that shoot the easy targets for sport