What Do Laughing Kookaburras Find So Funny?

It's strictly a scientific fact that we can't help falling into fits of uncontrollable hysteria at the mere mention of borderline risqué ornithological nomenclature. That is to say, funny bird names crack us up. You try keeping a straight face while discussing fully grown Blue-Footed Boobies, Andean Cock-of-the-rocks, or Rough-Faced Shags!

The Fowl Language Mug is one of those things, rather a novelty gift that really cracks us up—it's a play on words, substituting "foul" with "fowl" for a bird pun. Its cute cartoon birds and tongue-in-cheek approach to cheeky language make for a light-hearted funny mug that brings giggles to our day.

Now onto another funny bird: The laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae), native to the eucalyptus forests of eastern Australia, is the largest member of the kingfisher family.

As a child, you might have learned in school that the Kookaburra is a bird native to Australia and that it has a really funny name. You might even have learned the kooky little https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2VitpGRalw

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree.

Merry, merry king of the bush is he.

Laugh, kookaburra!

Laugh, kookaburra!

Gay your life must be.

Why Does the Kookaburra Laugh?

"They mainly do it to establish territory," Grove says. "They live in small family groups. And the laugh can be heard at any time of the day, though it is most frequent at dawn and dusk. The males might start the laughing Kookaburra sound and the rest of the family group might join in. While a lot of it might sound the same to us, they will sound different within their family. They will have certain calls within their group. It becomes a really loud chorus. There have been vocalization studies that the sounds made by one group resemble each other and they are different from other groups of Kookaburras."

They also vocalize to establish hierarchies within the family group, and sometimes Kookaburras engage in something like "bill wrestling" to decide who will be the last bird standing.

But Grove says what's really interesting is that the Kookaburra's laugh has been mistaken for other, larger animals — sometimes on purpose.

"Their vocalizations have been used in a lot of movies as the sound of primates," she says. "When you watch 'Tarzan' or 'Jurassic Park' and hear a chimp vocalization, it's actually a recording of a Kookaburra. It does sound very similar to a group of chimpanzees."

You're most likely to find the laughing Kookaburra in the wild in eastern Australia's eucalyptus forests; however, they are also found in parts of Western Australia, Tasmania and even New Zealand.

How Did the Kookaburra Get Its Name?

Kookaburra is an Australian aboriginal word — guuguubarra — that describes the laughing sound the bird makes.

According to an Australian aboriginal myth, the creator God Baiame made the Kookaburra call out when the sun rose in the morning. The bird was so happy to see the sun that he laughed out loud, waking people and other creatures.

And while it's true that Kookaburras do laugh at dawn (they're often called the "bushman's clock"), according to Julie Grove, an Animal Embassy area manager for the Maryland Zoo, their laughter serves an essential purpose for the bird.

What Do Kookaburras Look Like?

Laughing Kookaburras are members of the kingfisher family and reach between 15 to 18 inches (38 to 46 centimeters) in length; they can weigh 7 to 16 ounces (368 to 453 grams).

They have a squarish head and have a thick neck and strong neck muscles. Kookaburras have a brown stripe across their faces, with a lighter brown stripe on the top of their heads. They have large, brown eyes and a sturdy, prominent bill.

They're not as big as the giant kingfisher birds you'd find in Africa, but they are slightly larger than the forest kingfishers you'd find in Northern Australia.

Their feathers are brown, dark brown and white, providing camouflage in the forest. The Kookaburra has excellent vision, a helpful attribute because (despite the jolly song) kookaburras are predators and not picky eaters.

"They sit and wait on a perch, waiting for the prey," says Grove. "They have that really strong beak, so they crush small prey with it. What is pretty cool is the way they kill snakes. They bash the larger prey against a hard surface, which is fascinating."

Remember: Laugh, kookaburra! Laugh, kookaburra!

via howstuffworks

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