Guest post by Liz Downes
Early on Saturday morning my daughter heard a lot of scuffling going on in the leaves near the back fence and, through her bedroom window, saw two kookaburras locked together in some kind of struggle. After closer examination through binoculars she identified one as a Laughing Kooka and the other as a Blue-winged. The latter, let’s call him Bluey, had more extensive and more vivid blue plumage and also a pale, “scary-looking” eye compared with the Laughing one’s deceptively gentle-looking brown eye.
What she discovered was that Laughing Boy had its beak jammed down the throat of Bluey, which in turn had its own beak firmly clamped down on the intruder, and they were dancing about like that apparently unable, or unwilling, to unlock themselves.
A third Kookaburra (apparently from Team Laughing) was taking a close interest and occasionally swooping down, either offering encouragement to his protegee or perhaps some of that illegal coaching-from-the-sidelines that gets tennis players into trouble. Or was he just hoping for a share of the loot?
When my daughter realised what was causing this kerfuffle she woke me up and we both went downstairs to get a clearer view, wondering whether we might need to intervene. Laughing Boy was the one doing most of the flapping, while the hapless Bluey was having to dance to its tune and twist his head this way and that as the impaler tried to extract both his own beak and whatever tasty morsel he was trying to steal.
Meanwhile, I went to fetch some thick gardening gloves, hard hat and glasses (safety goggles not being part of my gardening equipment) but, as my daughter crept closer, they finally pulled themselves together – by which I mean, of course, that they pulled themselves apart.
Laughing Boy retreated to the shadows, no doubt nursing his wounded ego, and Bluey spent a minute or two like a stunned mullet with beak held high (perhaps in triumph?) and neck vertically extended, clearly suffering the mother of all sore throats. Finally, all three of them flew off to test their mettle in someone else’s backyard.
We can only assume that Bluey had seized a frog or lizard, of which there are many scuttling around in the thick leaf litter, and as he was trying to toss it back and swallow it, Laughing Boy saw an opportunity too good to miss and swooped down hoping a bit of fancy beak-work would deliver the prize.
From when the birds were first noticed to when they eventually separated it was around ten minutes. There’s never a dull moment in suburbia!
Liz (understandably) didn’t take video of the battle so I’ve added my own photos of the two species – see my Two Kinds of Kookaburra for more information about them. Also, Ian Montgomery has more photos of them on Birdway: Laughing Kookaburra and Blue-winged Kookaburra.