They are found in habitats ranging from humid forest to arid savanna, as well as in suburban areas with tall trees or near running water. Even though they belong to the larger group known as "kingfishers", kookaburras are not closely associated with water.
Laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) - native to eastern Australia, introduced to southwest
Unusually for close relatives, the laughing and blue-winged species are direct competitors in the area where their ranges now overlap. This suggests that these two species evolved in isolation, possibly during a period when Australia and New Guinea were more distant -- see Australia (continent).
Kookaburras are almost exclusively carnivorous, eating mice, snakes, insects, small reptiles, and the young of other birds; they have also been known to take goldfish from garden ponds. In zoos they are usually fed food for birds of prey.
The most social birds will accept handouts and will take meat from barbecues. It is generally not advised to feed kookaburras ground beef or pet food, as these do not include enough calcium and roughage.
They are territorial, except for the rufous-bellied, which often live with their young from the previous season. They often sing as a chorus to mark their territory.
Three newly hatched kookaburra chicks
All kookaburra species are listed as Least Concern. Australian law protects native birds, including kookaburras.
The children's television series Splatalot! includes an Australian character called "Kookaburra" (or "Kook"), whose costume includes decorative wings that recall the bird's plumage, and who is noted for his distinctive high-pitched laugh.
The call of a kookaburra nicknamed "Jacko" was for many years used as the morning opening theme by ABC radio stations, and for Radio Australia's overseas broadcasts. This was the basis for a book for children:
The Kookaburras, an English band from the County Durham.
The lyric "... the Laughing Kookaburras call ..." appears in the song "Across the Hills of Home" on the album Something of Value by Eric Bogle
BFD Records and BFD Productions, which are the distributors and/or copyright holders of most of the garage rock and psychedelic rock compilation albums in the Pebbles series, have the address Kookaburra, Australia.
^ abAndersen, M.J.; McCullough, J.M.; Mauck III, W.M.; Smith, B.T.; Moyle, R.G. (2017). "A phylogeny of kingfishers reveals an Indomalayan origin and elevated rates of diversification on oceanic islands". Journal of Biogeography: 1-13. doi:10.1111/jbi.13139.
^Simpson, Ken (1989). Field guide to the birds of Australia: a book of identification. Christopher Helm. p. 317.