Do you love Kingfisher? I am not talking about the Kingfisher some Indians fly on, or the calendar for which some women buy a lot of lingerie with the hope that they will be on its next edition.
I started this article this way, because I asked the same question to a few friends in New Delhi, and they were talking something like what I wrote above.
“No”, I said.
Then I clarified, “I am talking about the beautiful, brightly colored birds commonly found in India, Australia and most of the Old World, kingfisher of the family Halcyonidae “.
They had no idea, as they were far-removed from nature and they neither recognized, nor watched even the commonly seen birds in their neighborhood parks. They were only interested in some other type of bird-watching on which they seemed to be experts, as they salivated much while lecturing on ‘bird-watching’.
I had a beautiful greeting card sent to me by an Australian friend quite some time ago. It had a beautiful Kookaburra on it. And incidentally one of the friends I talked to was in Australia for some time. So, next I asked him about Kookaburras. Again, I felt I asked the wrong person the right question. He knew only the cricket thingy, which is a craze nowadays in India, and elsewhere, as the Cricket World Cup matches are going on in the subcontinent.
So, armed with a few things I knew about kingfishers and kookaburras, I asked my Australian friend. Luckily he seemed to know a thing or two about the bird, and that is why he sent the greeting card to me (see the scan of the old greeting card reproduced above).
So, here below is a brief bio of the Laughing Kookaburra, with the species name Dacelo novaeguineae.
Kookaburras are terrestrial kingfishers native to Australia and New Guinea. They are not really bothered about water as the other kingfishers are. Four species of kookaburras are identified in Australia and New Guinea, which are: Spangled Kookaburra (Dacelo tyro), Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii), Rufous-bellied Kookaburra (Dacelo gaudichaud), and the Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae).
Laughing Kookaburras seem to be funny birds as they make their trademark calls as if they are mocking at some equally funny ‘laughing human beings’. The name kookaburra is as if someone is laughing with a similar sound.
They belong to the kingfisher family Halcyonidae. These carnivorous birds native to eastern Australia have been introduced to Western Australia, Southwestern Australia, Tasmania, Flinders Island, Kangaroo Island, etc.
Earlier known as Dacelo gigas, Laughing Jackass, and Giant Kingfisher, they are large birds, about 45 cm long, with large heads, large bills and large brown eyes. They have white bodies and heads with dark brown stripes through each eye.
Their wings and plumes on the back are brown with blue spots on the shoulders. They have reddish-orange tails with brown stripes and white tips on feathers.
Kookaburras hunt for prey by perching and waiting on tree branches or tall posts for the prey to come nearer. They generally prey on mice and other rodents, lizards, small birds, small mammals, large insects and snakes including highly venomous snakes.
Laughing Kookaburras can be seen in gardens, parks and among human settlements. They are known to eat out of the hands of humans who may feed them. They may even snatch food from people’s hands by swooping down from a distance where they are perched.