Goo-goor-gaga: The Laughing Kookaburra

Kookaburra call the sky people to light the great fire that illuminates and warms the earth by day….

As the morning star fades Kookaburra laughs his loudest to wake the sleeping for sunrise…..

The Kookaburras call sounds like a laugh – like their native name “Goo Goor Gaga”. For many aboriginal people it is taboo, given the function to start the day, to mimic the Kookaburras call.

The Laughing Kookaburra is found throughout the eastern states and southern Western Australia. There is a similar species called a Blue Winged Kookaburra which as the name suggests has more blue in its plumage.

The Laughing Kookaburra is the largest of the Kingfishers. They are territorial and nest in tree hollow in open woodlands and forest.

Female Laughing Kookabura
Female Laughing Kookabura

You will notice in my photos, that the Kookaburras beak is large the top bill is black and the lower bill is bone coloured.

The head is light coloured with brown marks and a brown stripe from the eye. The wings are brown with a blue mottle. In this image you can see the rufus barring of the tail.

Males often have blue on the rump. So this bird is probably female. Female’s heads are more buff and their rump is brown.

Kookaburras live in family groups. Kookaburra young are not forced to leave their parents territory on maturity. The territorial space is used to meet the needs of young adults (called auxiliaries) and breeding pairs before breeding season. The family group works together to protect offspring, raise offspring and defend territorial boundaries. The auxiliaries do not have a breeding territory or breed while they are in the auxiliary role (usually 4 years). These living circumstances help keep reproduction rates low. Research has shown the auxiliaries provide about 30% of incubation and brooding time, and 60 percent of the food for the hatchlings.

Kookaburras favour a diet of insects and invertibrates. They also eat snakes, lizards, rodents, and occasionally small birds. When a small a snake or lizard is caught the Kookaburra holds its catch in its beak to shake and beat the catch against a tree branch until it is dead.


This female Kookaburra above was observed catching a 15 cm snake and flying to this branch where she killed and ate the snake. She noticed me observing at a distance but allowed me to advance slowly until I was about 10 meters away. She then flew to another perch at a more comfortable distance. She again allowed me to advance slowly to 10 meters. She surveyed the area regularly and eventually flew to a high perch.

I was amazed to discover Kookaburra may live for 20 years. Because the population turnover is slow the birth rate is very low. Kookaburras form permanent pairs. This pair of Kookaburra were perched very high with quite a few people, bicycles and dogs passing by underneath without disturbing them.

A Breeding Pair
A Breeding Pair

Notice the blue rump on the male in this photo below.

The male has a blue rump
The male has a blue rump

Kookaburras are one of my favorite birds. I hope you enjoy them to.

By Amanda Jackson

10 thoughts on “Goo-goor-gaga: The Laughing Kookaburra

  1. I love seeing kookaburras though sadly they are only seen in wildlife parks in this country.
    A wildlife park that used to be near me had lovely blue winged kookaburras in a walk through bird area (a large enclosure which was covered over but had trees growing and streams) and I remember getting some lovely shots of these on my camera. Very pretty looking birds and such an interesting call.

    1. Hi Evie

      great to hear from you.

      We are having a wonderful experience at the moment. We have a family of 5 Kookaburras visiting our place at the moment. We have just had a 2 year drought broken in the last 2 week. The Kooka’s were getting fish from us initially and they now visit which is bringing us some sheer joy.


  2. Kookaburras have certainly made their way to a comfortable home in Tasmania and they are moving southwards continually (global warming). We have a family that visits here. There is often several bunches of them on different trees and they laugh in non-harmony! When I first came to live in Australia they were affectionately called a laughing Jack Ass. And this wasn’t derogatory as the laugh does sound a bit like a donkey braying.

    You have presented these birds well.

    And all I can add is why would anyone want to cage them!

    1. Hi Helen

      I agree – I really do not know how anyone could cage Birds and especially native birds like the Kookaburra

      I can only think of one situation for Birds that have been injured….

      Thanks for stopping by – we love getting visitor feedback and interaction


  3. Thanks for your informative article. I have not yet had the opportunity to visit Australia. When I get there, where is the best place for me to travel to see the kookaburra. I love the idea that his job is to awaken the sunrise. Your pictures are spectacular. Where were they taken? Are your photos for sale? If so, Where?

    1. Hey Susan, thanks for the encouraging feedback. We love it when visitors let us know what we are doing well or can improve. I am encouraging my Sister Amanda to look at selling her photos in particular. Mine are just average snaps but hers are beautiful aren’t they! We hope to sell them form this website in the new Year.



  4. I have not seen or heard a kookaburra. I’m sure if it sounds as if it was laughing I would remember it. It’s like the whiperwill (not sure of the spelling on this) His song is distinct. I also don’t get up before sunrise often to hear him.

    Perhaps on one of my all-nighters on my WA work, I caan give a listen.

    1. Hi Debra

      you are right – I think when you here one and this will happen you will instantly recognise the Kookaburra….

      cheers and good luck


  5. Hi Amanda, i just read your article on ‘Goo-goor-gaga: The Laughing Kookaburra’ it was really informative! I had no idea they lived for that long, it’s quite amazing really.

    My favourite animals are birds, they make fantastic pets, is it possible to get a kookaburra as a pet?

    Kind regards,


    1. Hi Ty

      We get to handle these native birds (up close) as wildlife conservationists or assistants at sanctuary’s as you must have a licence in Australia to have this type of native bird in you care. Only specialist places such as fauna parks or zoo’s can get these licences.

      We attract Kookaburra’s to our back yard (a couple of acres) because we have kept some Gum trees, so we are pretty lucky!


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