The 'laughing jackass' of the bush is a large variety of kingfisher. The kookaburra which seems so much a part of the bush in south west W.A. is actually an
introduced species from the eastern states. Kookas were introduced to New Zealand where there remain some small populations. They were also introduced
to Fiji but that particular experiment was a failure.
Kookaburras mate for life and usually live in co-operative family groups with an alpha pair producing the young and siblings from previous years staying on to
help raise the new brothers and sisters. In this way they have the numbers to successfully raise more chicks than would otherwise be possible and are able to
hold on to a territory for longer.
Nests are built up in trees with up to 3 eggs being laid. Despite their co-operative behaviour once they are older, hatchlings will often try to kill each other and
within 3-4 days of the eggs hatching there will be only one chick left in the nest. The parent birds do not interfere with this process and it is a case of the
strongest chick will be the one that survives.
Some families of kookaburras in good territories will remain there for many generations.
In the wild, kookaburras usually live between 13 to 18 years. In captivity they can live up to 20 years.
Technically the Giant Kingfisher is the largest kingfisher species in actual size but the kookaburra (on average) is the heaviest of the estimated 90 different species.
Kookaburras will often bash their prey against a branch to kill it. Anyone who has ever given a piece of meat or a bacon rind to a kookaburra will have probably
noticed that the bird will immediately whack the meat on the nearest hard object in order to 'subdue' it. Kookaburras will often catch and kill snakes as well as
lizards, insects, fish, small marsupials and rodents.
The greatest threat to kookaburras is habitat loss caused by the removal of trees. Even so the species is widespread and not currently in danger of extinction.
As with most introduced species, the laughing kookaburra has had an environmental impact on other Western Australian wildlife but they are now a 'naturalised'
species and it is doubtful that anyone would ever seriously think about trying to eradicate them.
Australia is home to two of the four species of kookaburra with the others living in Papua New Guinea.