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kookaburra

kookaburra (kŏkˈəbûrˌə) [key], common name for a squat, long-tailed Australian kingfisher, Dacelo navaguinae. It is one of the largest birds of the family Alcedinidae (kingfisher family). Because of its loud, maniacal-sounding call, it is also known as the laughing jackass, or jackass kingfisher. The kookaburra has dull plumage and is about the size of a raven. Like many forest kingfishers, it does not fish at all, but rather feeds mainly on a diet of snakes, which it picks up by the head and drops from great heights in order to kill before consuming them. It also feeds on lizards, young birds, and large insects. Today, the kookaburra is often found in the vicinity of human settlements, using its large, hooked bill to scavenge for scraps. It is chiefly a solitary, nonmigratory bird. The kookaburra lays its pure white eggs in a burrow carved out of a termite nest. Both sexes participate in the incubation and care of their virtually helpless young. Kookaburras are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Coraciiformes, family Alcedinidae.

See study by V. A. Parry (1972).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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