Home | Bird Conservation (page 12)

Category Archives: Bird Conservation

Feed Subscription

The Kookaburra – Both a “Zoo Bird” and Surprisingly Common Pet

Laughing KookaburraIn years past the maniacal call of the Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novaeguineae, was often used as a backdrop for movies set in “the African jungle”…despite the fact that the bird dwells in dry, open woodlands, and even cities, in Australia.  I had always been fascinated by our own Belted Kingfisher, and longed to meet this largest member of the Kingfisher Family (Alcedinidae) in person.  I was surprised when my chance came well before I began working in zoos – on a visit to a private bird-keeper near NYC!

Not So Wild After All

It seems that Laughing Kookaburras are well-established in private aviculture in the USA, and not that hard to come by.  This makes sense – they are impressive, interesting birds that tame easily – but it first came as a surprise to me as they seem so “wild”.

But it turns out that they are not all that “wild” after all…in their native Australia, suburban Kookaburras often swipe sizzling-hot meat from barbeque grills!  A few albinos have even turned up, and a relative, the gorgeous Blue-Winged Kookaburra, Dacelo leachi, is also occasionally offered for sale.

Keeping Kookaburras

I cared for a pair of Laughing Kookaburras for some years, and found them to be most delightful and interesting.  They became quite docile, were eager to feed from the hand, and always greeted me with a scaled-down laugh – a “chuckle”, if you will – when I arrived.

While usually reserved for announcing their territory, Kookaburras also give their trademark call when excited.  When I wanted the Kookaburras to perform for visitors, I had merely to show them a treat and then make a show of walking away with it…or, worse yet, offering to their neighbor, a cantankerous Cassowary (they did indeed seem jealous!).

Both would cock their heads at me in that most beguiling way they have, and then let loose with a barrage of hysterical calls.  Kookaburras perch very upright and with chests “puffed out”, as do all kingfishers, but my pair seemed to sit even “prouder” when they had “forced” me to part with a few mice (their favorite).


Blue-winged Kookaburra

My Kookaburras lived well into their 20’s on a diet comprised of mice, earthworms, locusts, chicks, hard-boiled eggs, fish and crayfishes.  Wild Kookaburras also take snakes, lizards and frogs.  Many keepers provide raw meat or commercial Bird-of-Prey Diet, but whole animals are preferable foods by far.


I feel that Laughing Kookaburras are well-worth your time if you can properly provide for them.  Despite their fine points, however, Kookaburras are not for everyone.  They stand almost 20 inches high and have a broad wingspan…no indoor parrot cages for these brutes!

Height – 15 feet or more – is especially important in their aviary…like all kingfishers, Kookaburras hunt by plunging down on their prey from above.  And their calls, which carry very far, are a force to be reckoned with.

Some Natural History

The 4 Kookaburra species (the taxonomy of a 5th is in question) are classified as “Forest Kingfishers”, and placed within the subfamily Daceloninae.  The common name is derived from the Wiradjuri People’s term for their unique call.

Unlike their relatives, most Kookaburras frequent dry habitats.  The Laughing Kookaburra is much loved in its native eastern Australia, and has been introduced to southwestern Australia, Tasmania and Kawau Island (New Zealand).

Further Reading

Kookaburra Natural History (National Zoological Park).

Video: tame Kookaburra laughing it up  


Laughing Kookaburra image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Richard Taylor

Bird-Keeping Adventures – Caring for a Pel’s Fishing Owl

Pel’s Fishing OwlToday I’d like to my shift focus from pet trade birds and introduce you to a species I’ve worked with for many years, the Pel’s Fishing Owl, Scotopelia peli.  One individual under my care at the Bronx Zoo lived into his 50’s, and provided me with insights into the owl-world’s most uniquely adapted predator.

Owl Diversity: Bug Hunters to Deer-Slayers

It seems that the various species of owls are viewed by most folks as “variations on a theme” – mysterious, nocturnal birds that feed upon rodents and vanish by day.  But within the owl family (Strigiformes) we find an incredible diversity of lifestyles – sparrow-sized Elf Owls that nest in cacti and hunt insects, Great Horned Owls that stalk cats in NYC and parrots in Costa Rica, massive Eagle Owls capable of taking deer fawns, day-flying Hawk Owls…the list goes on.  Among the most unique are those that specialize in hunting fishes, known collectively as Fish or Fishing Owls. Read More »

Common Myna Added to World’s 100 Worst Invasive Species List

Common MynaThe Common Myna, Acridotheres tristis, is a less popular pet than the Hill Myna, Gracula religiosa, but is just as bright, and a very talented mimic.  Unfortunately, admirers have released in many foreign habitats, where it causes a host of problems.

Mynas as Pets

The various Mynas are among the most sought after (and expensive) of all bird pets.  These beautiful members of the starling family (Sturnidae) often amass vocabularies that rival those of any parrot, and are amazingly intelligent.  Read More »

Undercover “Sting” in Africa Nets 1,000 Parrots, Ivory and Cat Skins

Conservation efforts in Central Africa have long been plagued by heavily-armed poachers, corrupt governments and under-funded enforcement officers.  However, a recent (December, 2010) undercover operation involving the governments of 4 countries offers hope that things may be changing for the better.

Parrots Under Pressure

African Gray Parrots are still legally and illegally collected in many of the 23 countries in which they are found, and are everywhere in decline.  While some nations prohibit the taking of wild birds, in Angola and other nations there are no protections.  Read More »

Natural History and Captive Care of the Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot

Yellow Naped Amazon ParrotThe Yellow-Naped Amazon, Amazona ochrocephala, is considered by many bird enthusiasts to be the ultimate parrot pet.  Details of its care are well known, so I’ll just touch on some important points and then focus on its behavior in the wild.

Pet Qualities

Yellow-Naped Amazon owners invariably describe their pets as outgoing, acrobatic and with an uncanny ability not only to repeat words but to also mimic the pitch of human voices very closely…so much so, that one often questions a bird or person is speaking.  They tend to show affection by speaking or “warbling” (they are fairly “musical) and readily use their beaks in both play and aggression.  Read More »

Scroll To Top