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Dacelo
Kookaburra1
Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Coraciiformes
Family Alcedinidae
Halcyoninae
Genus Dacelo

Dacelo or kookaburras, is a genus of terrestrial tree kingfishers native to Australia and New Guinea, which grow to between 28–42 cm (11–17 in) in length. The name is a loanword from Wiradjuri guuguubarra, onomatopoeic of its call. The single member of the genus Clytoceyx is commonly referred to as the shovel-billed kookaburra.

The kookaburra's loud call sounds like echoing human laughter. Kookaburras are not closely associated with water. They are found in habitats ranging from humid forest to arid savanna, as well as in suburban areas with tall trees or near running water.

Behavior

Kookaburras are carnivorous. Kookaburras are known to eat the young of other birds, mice, snakes, insects and small reptiles. They have also been known to take goldfish from garden ponds. In zoos they are usually fed food for birds of prey.

The most social birds will accept handouts from humans and will take meat from barbecues. It is generally not advised to feed kookaburras meat regularly as it does not include calcium and other nutrients essential to the bird. Remainders of mince on the bird's beak can fester and cause problems.

They are territorial, except for the rufous-bellied, which often live with their young from the previous season. They often sing as a chorus to mark their territory.

Classification and Species

Four species of kookaburra can be found in Australia, New Guinea, and the Aru Islands.

kookaburras are sexually dimorphic. This is noticeable in the blue-winged and the rufous-bellied, where males have blue tails and females have reddish-brown tails.

Rufous-bellied Kookaburra (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824) (Dacelo gaudichaud)
Blue-winged Kookaburra (Vigors & Horsfield, 1826) (Dacelo leachii)
Laughing Kookaburra (Hermann, 1783) (Dacelo novaeguineae)
Spangled Kookaburra (Gray, 1858) (Dacelo tyro)

Unusually for close relatives, the laughing and blue-winged species are direct competitors in the area where their ranges now overlap. This suggests that these two species evolved in isolation (possibly during a period when Australia and New Guinea were more distant – see Australia-New Guinea.

Conservation

All kookaburra species are listed as Least Concern. Australian law protects native birds including kookaburras.

In Culture

Olly the Kookaburra was one of the three mascots chosen for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. The other mascots were Millie the Echidna and Syd the Platypus.

The distinctive sound of the laughing kookaburra's call is used in filmmaking and television productions, as well as certain Disney theme park attractions, regardless of where in the world the action is set. Kookaburras 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).

In William Arden's 1969 book, The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow, (one of 'The Three Investigators' series for young readers), the laughing kookaburra is integral to the plot.

The children's television series Splatalot! includes an Australian character called "Kookaburra" (or "Kook"), whose costume includes decorative wings that recall the bird's plumage, and who is noted for his distinctive high-pitched laugh.

Music

  • 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), have the address Kookaburra, Australia.

Postage Stamps

  • A six pence stamp was issued in 1914.
  • A three pence commemorative Australian stamp was issued for the 1928 Melbourne International Philatelic Exhibition,
  • A 38c Australian stamp issued in 1990 features a pair of kookaburras.

Coins

An Australian coin known as the Silver Kookaburra minted annually since 1990.

Yacht

The Australian 12 metre yacht Kookaburra III lost the America's Cup in 1987.

Hockey

The Australian Men's Hockey team is named after the kookaburra. They are currently (as of 2014) world champions in field hockey.

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