Near the end of our recent visit to the Lane Cove National Park in Sydney I saw this Laughing Kookaburra, first on a branch of a nearby tree (see below), and then on a nearby barbecue plate.
Fortunately nobody had been to that barbecue to cook their lunch that day, otherwise we would have had one very hot bird!
On a more serious note: once several decades when cooking a barbecue lunch for my family in Western Australia a kookaburra swooped out of a nearby tree and grabbed a sausage from the hot plate. I was not happy at the time, but in recent years I delight in telling this little story.
By the way, Laughing Kookaburras are not native to WA; they were introduced in the 1890s and have spread over much of south west Western Australia. On the other hand, Blue-winged Kookaburras can be found in the northern parts of WA.
- Laughing Kookaburra comes to lunch – an account of another kookaburra seeking human food – also in the Lane Cove National Park a few years ago.
Most people love to hear the call of the Laughing Kookaburra. It is one of the quintessential bird calls of the Australian bush.
Some people might be of the opinion that Laughing Kookaburras can be quite rude when they laugh at inappropriate moments. The bird in the photo above was being rude in a quite different way; he turned his back on me.
The bird shown in the photo today was one of the residents of one of the walk through aviaries at the Australian Reptile Park near Gosford north of Sydney. We went there on a family outing recently. It is my guess that there were also many more kookaburras in the surrounding bushland.
I’d better own up. The bird in the photo did turn around shortly after this photo was taken. Unfortunately I didn’t get the focus right and it turned out quite blurred, so I guess you can say that I was the rude one – for calling it rude in the first place!
Over Christmas last year we stayed with family in Artarmon on the north shore in Sydney. Almost every day we heard Laughing Kookaburras somewhere near the house, usually around 4:30am every morning. It was a pleasant wake-up call, albeit a little early.
From time to time my family enjoys seeing a kookaburra visit their back yard, often perching on the clothes line. I guess that they enjoy visiting and picking up for lunch any small skink (a small lizard – see photo below) that is a little tardy in moving to shelter out of sight.
Update Oct 1st 2015: I have recently been talking on the phone with my 7 year old grandson several times a week in recent weeks. He has developed an interest in the local birds (I wonder where he developed that interest?). He has told me that he regularly sees and hears the kookaburras in his garden, in the street where they live and in nearby parks where he goes riding his bike. On enquiring about the resident skinks, he told me that they see many of them every day they are in the garden, but the blue-tongue lizard which used to live under their front steps is no longer there.
For a discussion on the identification of the skink, please read the comments.
- A Laughing Kookaburra comes to lunch
- Interrupted by a Kookaburra
- The skink I referred to is a Common Garden Skink Lampropholis guichenoti
Article updated 1st October 2015.
My wife and I are currently staying in Sydney with our son and his family. We are having great fun playing with our two grandchildren age 5 and 2.5. We will be here until Christmas.
Because of the configuration of the house, the spare bedroom is at the back of the house, next to some large bushes and near to some large street trees. Up until recent days the Laughing Kookaburras have woken us before 5am; one morning it was 4:33am. As first light filters through the trees the hundreds of locally resident Rainbow Lorikeets start up their screeching as they fly from tree to tree.
Because of those two noisy resident species we treasure every second of sleep we can get, especially when the grandchildren usually knock on our door well before 7am. So it was a little disconcerting to have a Tawny Frogmouth doing the overnight shift, calling just outside our bedroom window! Fortunately, the call was soft enough not to keep me awake.
We had a very pleasant encounter while having breakfast this morning. I was focussed on completing the daily crossword in the newspaper when my wife excitedly drew my attention to the Sacred Kingfisher just outside the window of the sun room where we often eat our meals.
My bird records are not completely up to date, but we are certain it has been several years since we had seen one in our garden, making the sighting just that little bit extra special. I had preciously taken a few photos of this species but rarely at such close quarters. This was about 5 metres away and he couldn’t see us through the glass due to the early morning reflections.
I raced to the office to get my camera – yes – even at my age I can still raise a trot, albeit a modest one. For the next 15 minutes the kingfisher posed in a number of ways for my camera. The results speak for themselves.
In between taking photos we were able to observe some of its unique behaviours. As it sat almost motionless on a dead branch – typical perching behaviour – it would gently bob its tail. It would then turn its head slightly, usually peering intently at the ground. During the 15 minutes it stayed the bird dived like an arrow to the ground to catch its prey. We couldn’t see clearly what it was eating but this species eats beetles, grubs, cockroaches, small lizards like geckos and an assortment of small insects.
This species usually gives away its presence in the bush by its far-reaching ki-ki-ki-ki call. On this occasion it was silent throughout the 15 minutes.
The Sacred Kingfisher is found over much of Australia. They are migratory, moving south to breed in the summer months. Other kingfisher species in the region where I live in South Australia include the very similar Red-backed Kingfisher and the well-known Laughing Kookaburra.
This is just a sample of the best photos I took – out of 36 all together.
I was so inspired by this event that I went and wrote a poem about the encounter. You can read the poem here.