Kookaburras, known as the Laughing Jackasses of Australia, are from the Kingfisher family and are native only to Australia and New Guinea. Similar to other Kingfishers, they have a stout compact body, short neck, long pointed bill, short legs and are large birds, typically growing to a length of between 28 and 42 cm.
Our Kookaburras came from Kirkleatham Zoo in Yorkshire and have been trained to fly to glove. Bill and Bong are flown daily throughout the summer, weather permitting. The keepers are there to answer questions and help you understand these fun and cheeky birds. So don't miss the mid day performance and ensure that you fit this into your visit.
From the end of September they are put down to molt so that they can prepare for loosing their feathers and allowing new ones to grow.
They are best known for their unmistakable call, which sounds uncannily like loud, echoing human laughter and which is one of the best-known sounds in the animal world. They raise a wild chorus of crazy laughter as they go to roost in the treetops at dusk, and again wake everyone within hearing distance just as dawn breaks, so regularly that in the hinterlands of Australia they are know as the "bushman's clock."
Kookaburras are carnivorous and Australians value them, not only as an intriguing member of the strange fauna, but for there habit of feeding on snakes and lizards. The Kookaburra seizes snakes behind the head and kills them by either dropping them from a great height or by battering them senseless against a branch with its big bill, before swallowing them. They will also eat insects, mice, other small birds and raw meat. Less welcome is the Kookaburra’s fondness for the young of other birds, and its occasional raids on farmyards for ducklings and chicks.
The Kookaburra is well established in Australian culture and some of the ways in which it has been recognised are as follows:
- Olly the kookaburra was one of the three mascots chosen for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
- A 38cent Australian stamp was issued around 1990 and features a pair of Kookaburras.
- There has been an Australian coin known as the Silver Kookaburra minted annually since 1990.
- The Australian 12 metre yacht, Kookaburra 111 unsuccessfully defended the America’s Cup in 1987.
- The Australian men’s hockey team is named after the Kookaburra and were world champions in 2010.
- Kookaburra’s appeared in video games, Lineage 11, Battletoads and World of Warcraft.
- Kookaburra’s feature in Barry wood’s short story, Nowhere to go.
- The distinctive sound of the Kookaburra is on many ‘jungle sound’ sound tracks used in film making and television productions as well as Disney theme parks.
- There is a well known children’s song, Kookaburra.
The stuff of Legend!
The Australian aborigines have a legend about the Kookaburra. When the sun rose for the first time, the god Bayame ordered the kookaburra to utter its loud, almost human laughter in order to wake up mankind so that they should not miss the wonderful sunrise. The aborigines also believed that any child who insulted a kookaburra would grow an extra slanting tooth.