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.
Between the floods and the resumption of regular service on Green Path we received an email via the Contact page. The observations in it were so good that I asked permission to publish it, and here’s the result. I have used italics for my words to keep them separate; apart from that, I’ve done just a tiny bit of editing for consistency and brevity, and added links where appropriate.
My name is Ray and my wife (Judy) and I are retired and live in Annandale, backed onto the creek that runs from the Army base under the A1 and the “Richard I Bong” Bridge on Macarthur Drive. Got your email address from the Green Path website and you seemed quite experienced in birdlife. Thought you might be able to enlighten us – if you have time.
We have been visited lately by four Blue-winged and one Laughing Kookaburras (see pics attached).
Just a quick post today to keep the blog ticking over while I’m busy with other things: three photos taken on a visit to the Palmetum in mid November where we were lucky enough to see a male Blue-winged Kookaburra, Dacelo leachii, identify his nesting hollow for us by visiting it.
There’s more information about the species and its Laughing cousin on this page.
We hear Blue-winged Kookaburras (Dacelo leachii) more often than we see them but this one spent an hour or more in our garden a few weeks ago and I enjoyed waiting for her different poses. (This photo doesn’t tell us she’s female but other views do: females’ tail feathers are red-brown while males’ are bright blue.)
Australia has two species of kookaburra, the Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novoguineae, and the Blue-winged Kookaburra, Dacelo leachii. The first of them is the better known, since its range (originally a broad swathe down the whole East coast and now including Tasmania and SW Western Australia thanks to human intervention) is more heavily populated than that of its Blue-winged cousin (an arc around the Northern coast from Brisbane to the same latitude in WA). They are very similar in both appearance and habits:
Both inhabit open woodlands and both occur around Townsville. We see them frequently along the Ross River parklands and sometimes in and around our own garden.
Both have blue on their wings, but the Laughing has less blue on the wing, no blue on the rump or tail, and a dark streak behind the eye.
Both laugh, but differently: Slater’s Field Guide describes the Laughing Kookaburra’s call as “chuckling” and the Blue-winged’s as “maniacal”.
Both reach the same maximum size but the average size of the Blue-winged is smaller than that of the Laughing.
Both live in small groups, eat reptiles and large insects, and nest in tree hollows.
Both are Kingfishers. The relationship is easy to see in this Birdway gallery and in fact the Laughing Kookaburra is the largest but least colourful of a very attractive family.