Kookaburras in the garden

posted in: Life and things | 1

We’ve had visits from kookaburras over the years but they’ve not been frequent until the last couple of weeks. One turned up and took a bit of the food we leave out for the butcher birds, which are also carnivores. Then over a number of days, it turned up fairly regularly. And it brought friends. Based on its behaviour, one was more senior than the other two. It was braver and got more of the food. It was also pretty clear they were taking some of the offerings away, presumably back to the nest.

Soon one or two would arrive around 6am and do a little chuckle. Everyone has heard the famous laugh but that’s a territorial call, designed to intimidate the neighbours. The little chuckle is a gentle, “ahem, I’m here” call. And it works. It’s just enough to be a wake-up call if I’m still in bed. I put out food for them – and the lorikeets, miner birds, and butcher birds. The ibises are not welcome but they turn up anyway, and steal what they can.

Kookaburras are very family orientated. The three we saw were probably one of the alpha pair, with two of last season’s young. They help to raise the next lot of chicks before going off on their own.

Some people are against feeding wild birds but I look at it a little differently. Their habitat has changed. Not so long ago we could hear cattle in a paddock a few streets over from our place. There were big old gum trees where the cockatoos, possums, kookaburras, rosellas, wood ducks, and other species could find suitable hollows for nests and there was plenty of room for insects, reptiles and such.

But suburbia marches on. The trees are bulldozed to make way for more and more housing estates, small blocks with big houses and no room for trees. And life gets that little bit harder for the creatures that call Hervey Bay home.

We’ve never found the critters become dependent. We’ve had magpies drop in for a little extra when they were nesting. Some lorikeets are usually around but not necessarily the same ones and there can be weeks when we don’t see many. Same with the butcher birds and the miner birds.

We have a swimming pool and a bird bath, both of which attract plenty of visitors, especially when it’s a dry year. Miner birds and blue-faced honey eaters prefer to use the swimming pool for their ablutions but that can be a dangerous pastime. I’ve rescued quite a few over the years but if I’m not around… well, I fish the body out of the water.

Picture of a Noisy Miner Bird bathing
Noisy Miner Bird bathing in the swimming pool

I’ve seen kookaburras using the swimming pool for a bath but that was many years ago, when we had another long, dry spell.  They’re big strong birds, the largest of the king fishers, so they tend to handle the deep water pretty well. But not always. A few years ago, I’d been reading inside and went out to check the letterbox. On the way back I noticed a bird in the pool, sitting on the flexible pipes that run from the skimmer box down to the automatic pool cleaner. The kookaburra had been in there for a while, its soaked wings dragging in the water.

I approached slowly. Kookaburras have a formidable beak and the bird had opened it. But she didn’t struggle when I scooped her out, lifting her with her body cradled in the palm of my hand. Her wings hung down, absolutely soaked and she had no energy. Usually, if a bird hasn’t been immersed for too long I can put them into a tree, where their claws will automatically latch onto the branch without them being conscious of it. But this bird was past even that. So we dabbed her dry with a towel and then I sat in a chair with her propped up in a towel-nest on my lap. That way she was protected from other birds who might attack a predator in a weak state, and the warmth of my body would help her to recover.

In her towel-nest

I sat like that for about half an hour, aware of her body moving as she breathed, until she began to stir a little. Then I set her up in her towel nest on the chair to give her a chance to decide what to do next without having the great big human to contend with. I kept an eye on her, though. After another ten minutes she moved to the arm of the chair and then up onto the canvas back.

On the back of the canvas chair

Ten minutes later, she’d moved to the clothesline in the sun and breeze, moving her wings to dry the underparts. And then she was gone, off to tell the family about her frightening experience. I call her ‘she’ but I have no idea. Both sexes look the same. But whichever sex the bird is, the shortness of her tail makes me think she’s young.

Drying her wings on the clothesline

Maybe this bird or its offspring are our current visitors. Who knows?

No politics this week. I reckon we’re in for a long, tedious, faux election campaign before the next Federal Election.

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  1. Viv McCarthy-Frazer

    Lovely story especially the rescue. Kookaburras fast becoming my favourite visitors. Agree re feeding, we re still removing so much of their
    habitat.

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