terrestrial tree kingfisher
Kookaburra terrestrial tree kingfisher © Patrick Rolands

Australian Animals

Are Kookaburras Laughing or Screaming?

Kookaburras are the largest members of the kingfisher family

The Blue-winged Kookaburra of northern Australia makes a call described more like a harsh, cackling scream! It is slightly smaller than its laughing cousin with more blue on the wing.

Read more about our work to protect the tropical woodland home of the Blue-winged Kookaburra here.

of northern Australia makes a call described more like a harsh, cackling scream.
Blue-winged Kookaburra of northern Australia makes a call described more like a harsh, cackling scream. © Margaret Pittuck

The Laughing Kookaburra of eastern Australia makes a very familiar call sounding like raucous laughter. It’s used to establish territory among family groups, most often at dawn and dusk. Unfortunately, Laughing Kookaburras are also well established in south-west Western Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand after being artificially introduced. In WA they are significant threat to native lizard species and take up vital nesting hollows that endangered black cockatoos need to breed successfully. They have a distinctive dark eye stripe.

Kookaburras are terrestrial tree kingfishers
Laughing Kookaburra Kookaburras are terrestrial tree kingfishers © Erika Smart

The Spangled and Rufous-bellied Kookaburras, natives to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, occasionally visit Australian islands of the Torres Strait.

A tough start to life

Kookaburra chicks may be blind and naked once hatched but they are still very aggressive. The young chicks have special hooks on their beaks. They use these to fight each other in the nest – the first two hatchlings often pecking the third and final chick to death leaving more food for the themselves.

Diet

Kookaburras are almost exclusively carnivorous, eating mice, snakes, insects, small reptiles and the young of other birds.  In suburban parks and gardens they can become quite brazen and will happily snatch a sausage or two off your barbecue!