Animal Species:Blue-winged Kookaburra

Blue-winged Kookaburra family groups are often larger than those of the Laughing Kookaburra, with up to 12 members.

Blue-winged Kookaburra

Jack Purnell © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Blue-winged Kookaburra

Alternative Name/s

Barking or Howling Jackass or Leach's Kookaburra

Identification

The Blue-winged Kookaburra is a large kingfisher with a big square head and a long bill. It has a distinctive pale eye. The head is off-white with brown streaks, the shoulders are sky blue and it has a uniform blue rump.The throat is plain white and the underparts are white with faint scalloped orange-brown bars.The back is mid brown. Males have a dark blue tail while females' tails are barred red-brown or blackish. Otherwise the sexes are similar. The legs and feet are grey and the bill is dark above and yellowish below. Juveniles have paler streaks on the head with darker mottlings. There is slight geographical variation with plumage more buff in north-western Australia (race clifoni). As they are shy and often quiet in the foliage they may be overlooked.

Size range

38 cm to 42 cm

Similar Species

Laughing Kookaburra

Distribution

The Blue-winged Kookaburra is found in coastal and subcoastal areas in northwest and northeast Australia,Torres Strait and Southern New Guinea. It is widespread in the Gulf Country of Queensland extending South to about Toowoomba. It is also widespread in the top end of NorthernTerritory. It is absent from the Eighty Mile beach area in Western Australia separating the Pilbara population.

Habitat

Blue-winged Kookaburras are found in tropical and subtropical open woodlands, paperbark swamps, timber on watercourses, clearings, canefields and farmlands.

Seasonality

Blue-winged Kookaburras are sedentary with local seasonal movements.

Feeding and Diet

Blue-winged Kookaburras eat a wide range of invertebrates and vertebrates. They consume mainly insects, reptiles and frogs in the wetter months, and fish, crayfish, scorpions, spiders, snakes, earthworms and small birds and mammals at other times. After a controlled dive with their bill open, food is grabbed from the ground. The bill has a special groove near the end of the upper mandible which helps in holding prey. After returning to a perch, the prey is beaten and then swallowed. They show extra care when snakes are the prey. Pellets of undigested items are regurgitated and found beneath daytime perches, roosting sites and nests.

Communication

Loud maniacal screeching cackle developing into loud trills and then ending abruptly. Also a variety of trills, 'ow' notes, barks and hoarse screeches. Often call in groups from a high perch.

Mating and reproduction

The nest site of the Blue-winged Kookaburra is mostly high (to about 25 m) up in natural tree hollows, sometimes in tree termite nests, or in a hole cut into the soft wood of a baobab tree. Typically, the floor of the chamber is lower than the entrance, with an overall length of 50 cm. The breeding pair share the incubation of the eggs and subsequent feeding, which extends for one to two months, and are often assisted by auxiliaries (helpers), mainly from the previous year's clutch.

  • Breeding season: September to January
  • Clutch size: Two to five, usually three
  • Incubation: 26 days
  • Time in nest: 36 days

Conservation Status

Blue-winged Kookaburras have suffered from loss of habitat resulting from land clearing, and are often killed on roads.

Classification

Species:
leachii
Genus:
Dacelo
Family:
Halcyonidae
Order:
Coraciiformes
Class:
Aves
Subphylum:
Vertebrata
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  • Higgins, P.J. (ed) 1999. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 4 (Parrots to Dollarbird). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
  • Schodde, R. and Tideman, S.C. (eds) 1990. Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (2nd Edition). Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney.
  • Strahan, R. (ed) 1994. Cuckoos, Nightbirds and Kingfishers of Australia. Angus and Robertson/Australian Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Morcombe, M. 2000. Field guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing.
  • Slater, P, Slater, P, and Slater, R 1989. The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds. Lansdowne. Revised edition.


Eric Broadfoot
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Tags BIBY, bird, birds, kookaburra, kingfishers,