Kookaburra visit

The other day, for no immediately obvious reason, there was a kookaburra sitting on our railing.

Fluffed up kookaburra

(A Laughing Kookaburra, by the way, not the less common and less cuddly Blue-Winged version.)

Birds, we get plenty of. Kookas, we don't, because we don't put out the right food.

There's a house further up the street that always has a kooka or three sitting on the power lines outside. My Holmesian deductive skills lead me to believe that the people who live there feed the kookas.

That's easy enough to do; just put out bits of meat and kookaburras, who are happy to eat pretty much anything that's not a boring old plant, will gobble them up.

Kookas do not do well on a diet heavy in the steak-bits that humans like to feed them, but occasional meals of pretty much any live or dead animal go down nicely.

Kookaburra portrait

This one had decided to try our house out instead. It was a female, I think, on account of the lack of blue colouration on wings and tail.

Anyway, I first went out there to snap some shots of the bird with my old-ish 100-300mm. That wasn't as successful as I'd hoped.

Oh, I took pictures of the bird just fine. But the minimum focus distance for the 100-300 is 1.5 metres, and I had some trouble getting that far away from this kookaburra. She seemed happy enough with the lens more or less clinking up against her beak.

It wasn't really a normal bird-lens kind of situation.

So I switched to my cheap Phoenix macro.

Kookaburra eye

Yeah, that's better.

Many kookaburras have been hanging around people long enough that they'll eat out of your hand.

Kookaburra beak

It's up to you to decide whether that's a good idea.

I took a lot of pictures of this kooka, then figured I ought to say thank you with at least a bit of food. Nothing in the pantry really screamed "kookaburra food", but there was some cat food with fish chunks, which looked like a decent bet.

Kookaburra having a snack

It met with her approval.

I initially tried offering her a spoonful of it. I only just managed to get the spoon back.

Kookaburra snack

Kookaburras aren't really built to eat cat food, even the lumpy kind. So a significant amount of the fish ended up just messing up her beak. And the railing.

Kookaburra shaking head

That was because kookas instinctively beat their food on hard objects, to make sure it's dead. They do this with any food you give them, which means you'll get sprayed with tiny bits of fish if you give them cat food.

Kookas also, like other birds, have a nictitating membrane, or "third eyelid", which they deploy to protect their eyes when they're doing something dramatic, like bashing their food.

Kookaburra monster

The translucent membrane gives the bird a dead-eyed zombie look.

Cats have third eyelids too, but they at least have the decency to close their outer eyelids before they close the membrane, so you usually only see a bit of it retracting away as a sleepy cat opens its eyes. If you see a cat with its eye mostly open and the nictitating membrane clearly visible, then it is probably not a healthy cat.

The kookaburra hasn't been back for another feed. I presume whatever they're getting up the street is better.

3 Responses to “Kookaburra visit”

  1. Thuli Says:

    I've noticed carnivorous birds like Kookas & Currawongs tend to love cheese, which I'm sure is really good for them

  2. Mark Cocquio Says:

    Every sensible creature loves cheese. :) But yes, it's probably not great for them.

    Feeding wildlife is thorny issue. I won't go into the pros and cons, but will just say that if you are going to feed on a regular basis, be very careful what you feed.

    That, and that Kookaburras can get pretty aggressive if they expect food. When I was on Great Keppel Island there was one there that would dive bomb people who weren't looking and snatch chips out of their hands which were en route to their mouths. Apparently it missed occasionally and took off with a chunk of face instead.

    On an unrelated note, the smaller Blue-Winged Kookas sound quite different. They have a nicely manic, totally insane laugh that builds and then cuts off suddenly. Quite amusing.

    Nice pics BTW Daniel. :)

  3. rainbowwizard Says:

    Great photos and story Daniel - I can just imagine cat food all over the place - keep up the good work

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