Kookaburra kingdom

This photo of a vigilant kookaburra on my yard gate suits this extract from the chapter on Kookaburras in my book, Mountain Tails:

Moist ground, short grass, worms a-wriggling, birds a-watching — snap!

Kookaburras claim my fence posts, my gates, my tree guards, my guttering, the glasshouse roof and the bare wintry branches of my stone fruit trees. Like sentries in castle turrets, they keep constant watch on their kingdom. For ages they stare fixedly at a spot in the apparently motionless paddock. It’s as if they are commanding a worm to emerge there by such concentrated power of will.

‘In a cold wind they fluff up their feathers: basic off-white, elegantly speckled and heavily striped in chocolate brown, barred with black, underscored by amber, and with those sometimes hidden, so often surprising, sky-blue dabs and dashes on the wings. A backcombing breeze makes their flat heads look ruffled and peaked like punks, but their heavily made up eyes are not distracted from their task.

Their beaks are big and tough and capacious, hooked at the end. Good for catching much bigger prey than worms or beetles, but that’s what’s on the menu in this clearing. Just a snack in between the morning and evening song sessions.

These are Laughing Kookaburras, sometimes called Laughing Jackasses, the largest members of the world’s kingfisher family, all of whom are carnivorous for more than fish. This sort likes mice, as well as worms and insects and reptiles, and there are lots of small mouse-like marsupials here to make residency in my Refuge worthwhile. There are also lots of tree hollows, so it’s a good nesting and breeding place for kookaburra families.

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