Live Sounds: Cackle Along With The Laughing Kookaburra

Listen to one of Australia’s most iconic birdcalls. Text and podcast by Tai Inoue.  
laughing kookaburra
The kookaburra's call has a human-like quality. Photo: Richard Taylor/Flickr/Creative Commons (

Recording the laughing kookaburra, one of the loudest birds found in Australia, turned out to be more of a challenge than I first expected. It took almost two years of field work to capture this truly iconic Australian sound.

Over a couple of sessions, I was fortunate to be able to finally document some close-range field recordings and witness firsthand the process of nest-building. I remember on one occasion in late 2008 during the build up to the wet season, recording near a large wetland that was bordered by sclerophyll forest, in an area with a large population of both species of kookaburra found in Australia: the laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) and the blue-winged kookaburra (Dacelo leachii).

Not long after the first rays of light began to light up the surrounding bush, I saw the first kookaburra fly into the nesting site and start to chip away at the nest, using his powerful beak to hollow out the inside of a large termite that they use for nesting. If you listen closely to the first section of the recording, you can hear a small sample of the kookaburra and some nest-building sounds.

The kookaburra call has an almost human quality, and is one of the most beautiful and comical sounds that you will hear, if you are fortunate enough to spend some time in the Australian bush.


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