The Laughing Kookaburra is Australia’s most iconic bird, and possibly our most popular. It generally is a very placid natured bird relatively trusting of humans, co habitating especially if fed by them. They can become a problem like many Australia’s wild birds if they become regularly dependent on human’s feeding them. It is found throughout the forests of eastern Australia and far south west WA. The ‘Kooka’ as most of us know it, is a territorial bird like many of our birds, and can be found in the same geographical area most of the year, which makes it easy to locate.
Kookas are known for their loud laugh like call, which is often sounded in a family group from sunrise, various times through the day and sunset, where several birds will call together for periods of twenty seconds to several minutes, often being led by one bird. It became known to the early European settlers as ‘The Settlers Clock’ because the birds will sit in a tall eucalypt tree facing east waiting for the first light of the sun and then begin marking their territory, often moving from area to area repeating their call and marking their boundary, warding off other Kooka families. Listen to the morning call of several Kookas…
Listen to this one Kooka as he idles his laugh which usually results shortly after in the group sounding off again.
Here is a capture at sunset…
The same may occur several times through the day, but more importantly just before sunset they may be found facing west and putting out a final call for day as the sun is about to set. Thus in the early days with isolation and lack of accurate Eastern Standard Time for many in the bush, the call of the Kookaburra would wake the farmer in the morning to commence his day, and also alert him to sunset and the need to get back to house quickly to light the lamps for the night.
One of the great delights of living in Australia is the sound of the Kookaburras first thing in the morning. My wife and I always get excited to hear their call when they stray into our area, as we do not have resident ones, possibly due to the extremely aggressive nature of our local Noisy Miners. Kookas are one of the few birds that will tolerate being attacked by Miners, but will move on if too many persistently attack and bite, but not moving too far away.The Kookaburra mainly feeds on worms, insects and the flesh of snakes, lizards, frogs, birds and small mammals, by pouncing on their prey from a branch or perch. They are known for killing their prey with their very thick strong beak by bashing the prey against a tree to kill it. Even if you feed it dead meat it will still go through the process of ‘killing’ it by beating it to death. They are often seen doing this to snakes.
Blue-winged Kookaburra female
Blue-winged Kookaburra male
In Australia we have two species of Kookaburra, the Laughing and the Blue Winged. Though they both have blue on their wings, the Blue Winged has much more, is a slightly smaller bird and is only found in far north Australia. Its call is not at loud and regular as the Laughing Kooka.
Kookaburra are large tree Kingfishers, being a similar bird, of the same genus Dacelo, having amazing better than average binocular vision which allows for very exacting triangulation. The main way to discern the breeding male from the female is that the male has a bright blue colored rump (central back feathers) whereas the female and immature both lack this.
I have witnessed several times a Kookaburra fly through an open air cafe and remove the meat portion of a hamburger while the patron is left holding the bun and lettuce. If you are gardening they will sit on the fence right next to you and silently watch as you dig, then suddenly plunge down right in front of you and grab a worm you did not even see was there.
The Kookaburra makes its nest in the holes found in trees and more often will bore a hole into a termite or white ant mound and make a simple nest there. In a similar way to the Magpie, the whole family may assist in the incubation, building and care of the nest. This Kookaburra is defending its white ant nest hole against an intruding Rainbow Lorikeet.
approach of Rainbow Lorikeet
Warning beak and sound given from nest
Kooka attacks lorikeet with zeal
Kooka in pursuit
This juvenile Kookaburra is fed by the parent worms and small lizards, until it is able to fend for itself.
Here are some rare shots of a male Kookaburra diving completely into the water of a fresh water lake. The question it raises is: washing or fishing? I have since wondered if this Kooka is attempting to copy the Cormorants it would have watched fish, diving beneath the water and emerging with a fish. Maybe he was trying his hand (or claw) at it. It was an interesting and rare capture regardless.
In my book ‘What Birds Teach Us‘ I sight the Kookaburra as an example for us of Punctuality due to its predictable sunrise and sunset call. I have lived for years believing the myth that many of us were told when young that Kookaburras can predict rain and as a result I have been both amazed and also let down (embarrassed) from this belief. This myth may have some truth to it, but does not follow for every occasion. I often hear them call when an impending storm of dark Cumulonimbus clouds can be seen on the horizon, this may also be a coincidence.
This may be my last weekly blog post for a while as I consider my future. My job has been terminated and I am currently seeking God as to my next step. Due to the low numbers in local birds (caused mostly by drought) and having not traveled recently I have no new material. I am considering if this is the time to commence writing my second book. Thank you my dear bird blogger friends for your warm encouraging support. I will continue to post occasionally until I am properly sorted.
“Bestillbefore the Lordandwait patiently for him…” – Psalm 37:7 (NIV)
Enjoy your week and please pray for the best outcome for our Federal Election next Month.
This week I am showcasing two of Australia’s most amazing and unique birds, the Superb Lyrebird and the Albert’s Lyrebird, both of which are endemic to the east coast of the Australian mainland. Their name Lyrebird is derived from the long tail plumage or lyrates of the mature males, which resembles the musical instrument by that name. You can imagine the fine lace like plumes to be like strings, as seen above. The more common Superb Lyrebird is found in the rainforests of far south eastern Queensland, all the way through eastern NSW to south eastern Victoria.
The mature male tail plumage takes up to six years to fully develop, making it sometimes difficult to discern the young male from the female which lacks the lyrates and lace plumage. Click photo to enlarge it.
This bird has many similar characteristics with the Satin Bowerbird in its long egg incubation (40-45 days), long period for male maturity (six years), life long practice of males learning to dance and perform mimicry song to impress and win mates. The Bowerbird male also includes lifelong practice at building a bower. The juvenile, similar to the female has a rufous throat, as seen in some other rainforest birds such as the Logrunner.
Female Superb Lyrebird
Female Superb Lyrebird
These birds seldom fly, though they can, but usually only very short distances, as they are territorial and tend not to leave the protection of their rainforest area. Their elaborate tail plumage is more for gliding than for flying any distance. They only fly to escape predators and humans, and to fly over rivers and streams. Under the tall tree canopy of the rainforest they have little need to fly. Most of their time is spent scratching in the leaf litter on the dark forest floor in search of worms and other insects, which is their main diet. This bird is the emblem of NSW National Parks.
In Australia’s early British settlement years, thousands of these birds were needlessly shot by so called ‘Naturalists’ who enjoyed bringing home animals and birds, but many were wasted and a few stuffed and sent back home to museums. Eventually this barbaric practice was outlawed and now the camera is the only shooting allowed. My grandson stands next to a stuffy of the Superb Lyrebird, showcasing my book which is sold in the Royal National Park gift shop. This bird is one of the many included in my book which is for purchase here online through secure PayPal. Many of my readers have already purchased it and have shared delightful reviews.
So from a young age the male practices his courtship dance and song, dancing to his own beat. It is very special to witness this in the wild.
We will share some of the very special moment, when we witnessed for the very first time, a male practicing behind some bush in the Blue Mountains NP. Now we often see them there each visit to Evans Lookout. Listen to the different bird calls of the Currawong, Cockatoo, Whipbird and Parrot. He spreads his tail up over his head as a covering in a similar way to the Peacock and dances and displays continual bird mimicry with amazing accuracy. The courtship ritual involves the male building and earthen mound about 15 centimeters high, which is like a stage where he performs his song and dance for the female. He may have many of these within his territory. This month being Autumn will mean that he will be busily preparing his mounds and fine tuning his choreography for the mating season. It is thought they breed in the Winter months because food sources are more plentiful at that time.
They can copy perfectly chain saws, jack hammers, camera shutters and any sound they hear. Look carefully to the bottom right of the spread tail feathers and you will see the mouth of the Lyrebird moving. I have heard a Lyrebird copy a chain saw, and it was a brilliant and perfect copy. This is the special moment my wife and I witnessed our first Lyrebird concert ever in the wild.
Listen to this sound file of another male sounding off. This is practiced as he puts together his song which he will present to his female hopeful when the times comes. The “Tch, tch, tch, tch” sound you occasionally hear in between the mimicry of other bird calls is his own sound, and this helps me identify him from other birds. This is a beautiful mindful experience, even if you can not see the bird, just to stop and hear its amazing repertoire and appreciate this amazing creature.
In recent years these birds have been decimated by reduction of habitat through land clearing for pine forest plantations and more so by domestic cats, ferule cats and foxes, especially in Victoria’s Sherbrooke Forest NP where these birds were almost completely wiped out by domestic cats. Locals have to chip and cage their cats to own them or heavy penalties apply. You can read more about it here.
Other predators which are often not thought of are reptiles such as this Lace Monitor. I found this one in the Royal National Park climbing a tree, to most likely check for any bird eggs. Surveys have shown that areas which have resident Lyrebirds have a significant reduction in bushfire intensity. It is thought there is some connection with them digging through leaf litter and reducing weed undergrowth propagation.
The Albert’s Lyrebird a much rarer bird and seldom ever seen by most Australians, living deep inside the rainforests found in the mountains bordering NSW and Queensland. The Lamington NP is the easiest place to attempt to see them, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, Canungra is the best. Similar to the Superb, they are more timid, and mature males are seldom seen. Here is a juvenile male.
They have a shorter tail than the Superb, with less impressive lyrates. There are differences in the male courtship ritual, which very few have ever witnessed in the wild. They are only found in this very small region of Australia, protected by the dense rainforest and difficult altitude. These birds can effortlessly disappear down almost vertical cliffs and gullies. They can also mimic but not as much as the Superb and have a different sound of their own.
These birds forage in the same way as the Superb by scratching in the leaf litter. They have a lovely chestnut brown wing plumage, and both sexes have the rufous chin.
If you should ever visit The Royal National Park or any of the rainforest regions around the Sydney area you may encounter a sighting, or at least a hearing of this remarkable bird. If you find me there we can share the experience, and a bird’s eye view…
The latest research on bird calls, in particular their repetitive sounds, is that they make their sound exactly the same pitch and strength without variation every time. If a human was to say the same word or sing the same line over and over, the pitch and duration of sound can be plotted to deteriorate and become longer and lower due to wearing out. The lyrebird in its continuous flow of mimicry does not weary or change, but reflects perfectly what it has heard on each occasion. Children are like young birds, they listen and repeat what they hear and see, and with surprising accuracy. This is always a warning to myself to be extra vigilant around children and now especially grandchildren which are sponges for learning to be like adults.
“As children copy their fathers you, as God’s children, are to copy him. Live your lives in love—the same sort of love which Christ gives us and which he perfectly expressed when he gave himself up for us in sacrifice to God.” – Ephesians 5:1 (JBPNT)
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)
“Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.” – Colossians 3:21 (NIV)
Thank you for sharing this time with me and our beautiful birds. Have a most enjoyable week, experiencing the changing season. May it bring refreshing change in you as you be still and take it in.
If this is your first visit to my blog please check out my website Home-Page for more birding tips and healthy life skills.
The Rufous Whistler singing. The Golden Whistler singing.
This will be my last post for 2018, and with it comes a sincere blessing to all my blog followers for a joyful, enjoyable and thankful Christmas experience. This is a special post unlike any others, for here I share my own personal experience of how one Christmas day became so important to the rest of my life. I have featured both the Rufous and Golden Whistlers in this post as examples of joy and thanksgiving since these two birds can be heard singing their hearts out non stop at this time of year bringing our bush alive with their joyful song. The Golden Whistler is featured in my book for this reason. Last weekend while in Wagga Wagga I took a short trip out to The Rock Nature Reserve, which Sue Taylor raved about in her book 100 Best Birdwatching Sites in Australia, but which we find disappointing each visit. My main goal here was to catch a glimpse of the Red-capped Robin, which I long to see, but alas as a storm moved in the only bird I heard was several persistent Rufous Whistler. The drought has caused many birds to desert this area for want of food and water.
But for their different colored chests (which give them their name) they look and sound similar. They are heard most only in the Spring and Summer while they chase mates and nest. Endemic to Australia, the Golden species is found mainly along the humid east coast of Australia, SW WA and Lord Howe Island. The Rufous is found all over Australia mainland and is more often seen in the dryer open woodland west of the ranges. Recent scientific research has discovered that many song birds sing so joyfully and with full on vigor for the pure delight of doing so, because it has an endorphin release in the brain that gives them a feel good feeling. Rejoicing and being thankful has a very positive and life giving effect in humans as in birds. This Christmas is a time for us all to take heed of these little songsters, and realize the health and social benefits of having a joyful spirit. It actually builds up our immune system and helps keep us healthy.
Listen to the several different calls of the Rufous Whistler…
In this video clip you will see (slightly out of focus) one of the amazing abilities of the Rufous Whistler with this repetitive call. All bird sing their most and best as sun rises and sun sets. Birders know this as the Morning and Evening Chorus. If you want to see and hear a bird joyfully communicating with its mates and thankfully enjoying its breakfast after a long sleep, morning is best. Then just as sun starts to set again they excitedly call and have their last feed for the day before finding their roost, usually moving to the top of the highest trees as the suns light diminishes.
As I explained in a previous blog post at the commencement of our Spring, the sound of the Golden Whistler is one such call that tells me here in Sydney’s Royal National Park that Spring has arrived and the Whistler is seeking a mate and/or nesting his mate. Note that I have only shown photos of the males, as they are main whistlers, they do communicate with each other as they foragein a similar way to the Whipbird.
Golden Whistler (male)
Golden Whistler male
Golden Whistler male
Golden Whistler (male) whistling
Golden Whistler (male)
Golden Whistler (male)
Golden Whistler (male)
Listen to the song of the Golden Whistler, it also varies at intervals…
Again they call with such enthusiasm…
My last meditation for the year is in the form of my own personal testimony to how one Christmas at the age of 16 my life took a new journey. If you take the time to read it, it may encourage you to discover the joy I did and like the Whistlers…
“Shout out praises to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with joy! Enter his presence with joyful singing! Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us and we belong to him;” – Psalm 100: 1-5 (NET)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7 (NET)
This is the true joy of having the indwelling Holy Spirit of Jesus who keeps us joyful in his peace and love even through the difficult times of life. Jesus is the reason for the season, so why not look him up if you have not done so already. Check out my Birder Sanctuary page for more spiritual encouragement and direction. As I shared in my AboutUs page, my wife and I are not religious we are grace and faith people who have come to believe in Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
You can still purchase my book as a great Christmas gift for a grandchild or child on my BirdBook page.
One of my primary goals in life is to leave an appreciation of our natural heritage for our youth. Writing my first book (available here online) was one attempt at achieving this, followed by whetting an interest in family and friends to explore our native birds and also our beautiful bush with its unique trees, flowers and animals. Sharing a pair of binoculars many have had their eyes opened to a beautiful living world they had not known, hidden in the very trees they walk past, as they are introduced to the birding experience.
During the recent school holidays one of my grandsons came to stay and my wife and I took him on a bird walk in the Royal National Park near where we live. This park is affectionately known as the ‘Nasho’. You have seen many posts from this park, but it alive at the moment and the birds have returned because of the recent good rains and Spring, the time to court, mate and nest.
There is much song in the bush. Scientists have recently found that our birds not only sing in Spring to attract and communicate with their mate, but also sing both in and out of season for the love of it. Singing stimulates the release of feel good endorphins in the birds brain, making singing a very enjoyable experience. We heard and saw several male Golden Whistlers calling.
My grandson Joel, started enjoying spotting these birds high in the trees, seeing how beautiful they are, and how the binoculars bring them so close. His father had warned us not to take him birding too long, as he might get bored easy, but we kept asking him and he said he was enjoying the experience with us and we went further into the bush spending several hours exploring together. He saw several Golden Whistlers but only the male, as the female is possibly sitting on the nest. Click on photos to enlarge them.
We need to help our youth discover the benefits of birdingto save them from the tyranny of the electronic devices that preclude them from healthy exercise and an appreciation of their natural heritage. This grounding has therapeutic effects in actually lowering stress levels.It is not just birds we see but the beautiful Spring flowers high in nectar and food for our many honeyeaters.
We were quite amazed to find several flowering Waratah flowers, a rare treat, as many of these plants have been stolen from National Parks for their beauty. This is the floral emblem of our state NSW and its botanical name Telopea speciosissimameans ‘bright red beauty seen from afar‘, and that is exactly what these flowers are, they are iridescent flower heads made up of hundreds of tiny flowers. It is a difficult plant to grow in your garden at home and can not tolerate transplanting or being moved.
NSW Waratah (State floral emblem)
Another large red flower seen in the park is the Gymea Lily a plant indigenous to the Sydney area. It also has many smaller flowers that make up the large flower head. It stands majestically over four metres tall,,,
Most of the birds we saw were honeyeaters feeding off the flowering eucalypt trees. In Australia, unlike Europe, pollination is performed by the birds, not bees. Most of our pollinating bees were introduced. The Australian native bee is very tiny and is not the main pollinator. So it is a buz to see this Lewin’s Honeyeater feeding from flowers along with this Yellow-faced Honeyeater.
Yellow-faced Honeyeater feeding.
Lewin’s Honeyeater feeding on Spider Grevillea
Lewin’s Honeyeater feeding on Spider Grevillea
Lewin’s Honeyeater feeding on Spider Grevillea
The beautiful Eastern Spinebill was moving rapidly around the flowers and calling to its mates. This honeyeater has a long curved beak enabling it to reach deep into tubular flowers such as Bush Fuchsia (seen above) and larger flower heads.
This tiny Silvereye was also getting in on the action but was after insects…
It is always a delight to see and hear the Brown Thornbill, another tiny insectivorous bird as it moves around the tree’s lower canopy making its unique call…
By now Joel has seen and heard many birds and been introduced into a whole new world of discovery which we can only encourage him to continue to explore. Not many young people find it their cup of tea, but our desire is that at least some may be given the opportunity to sample the experience and learn the value of conserving our natural heritage for the future years when they will be the voters.
A highlight of the walk was to firstly hear and then site a White-throated Treecreeper as he was making his way up a eucalypt tree. He found an insect in the bark and proceeded carrying it, possibly collecting food for a nestling. The sound file below lets you know what you hear as he climbs the tree.
The sound of Yellow-tailed Cockatoo passing overhead caused quite an excitement, but we could only see their silhouette as we were deep in the forest.
So the message is, purchase two pair of binoculars, one for you and one for your birding guest then take your family and friends on a bird walk and share your love and knowledge with them. Your passion and love of birding will have a contagious affect on those who walk with you. Our prayer is that children will appreciate their natural heritage from a young age. I have enjoyed talking at seminars and schools in the past promoting this along with my book, and have had wonderful responses from both parent and child. I love talking to people who share my passion to save our youth from addiction to electronic gadgetry and the physical, social and emotional illnesses that accompany this.
Royal Spoonbills WORKING
Royal Spoonbills RESTING
We may need to help our youth strike a balance between work and rest, as spending time with electronic media etc is stressful work involving active mind and eye activity. The birds know how to work and rest but our modern coffee society has adrenal overload helping to bring on many chronic illnesses, simply because they are over stressed and not allowing enough time for rest and sleep. Self control and developing healthy habits, such as taking a walk in the park or bush each week can help to lower your stress level, reducing the chances of both physical and mental illness. Birding takes resting to the next level with endorphin release in the brain as an added enjoyment factor when a bird is sighted and appreciated. This is similar to what a bird experiences when it sings for the pure joy of it. We have the blessed honor of leaving a positive and memorable influence on our youth, a priceless legacy that may be passed on from generation to generation.
“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12
“Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.”
“Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (NEV)
Have a wonderful week! I have been asked to continue working on my existing agreement to assist training staff before my full-time position is filled, so my second book writing remains on hold.
If this is your first visit to my blog, please take a minute to check out my website Homepage menu and helpful birding and counselling info. Check out my unique book which can be purchased through secure PayPal here online on my BirdBook page.