Kookaburras are best known for their which is uncannily like loud, echoing human laughter— good-natured if rather hysterical merriment in the case of the more common Laughing Kookaburra (D. novaeguineae), maniacial, almost insane cackling in the case of the slightly smaller Blue-winged Kookaburra (D. leachii).
Kookaburras occupy woodland territories in loose family groups, and their laughter serves the same purpose as a great many other bird calls: to demarcate territorial borders. It can be heard at any time of day but most frequently shortly after dawn, and especially when the colour drains from the forest after sunset.
One bird starts with a low, hiccupping chuckle, then throws its head back in raucous laughter: often several others join in. If a rival tribe is within earshot and replies, the whole family soon gathers to fill the bush with ringing laughter. Hearing kookaburras in full voice is one of the most extraordinary experiences of the Australian bush; something even locals cannot ignore, and that visitors, unless forewarned, can be quite terrified by.
The Laughing Kookaburra is a handsome, stocky bird of about 45 cm in length, with a large head, a prominent brown eye, and a very large bill. It hunts much as other kingfishers (or indeed robins) do: by perching on a convenient branch or wire and waiting patiently for prey to pass by: mice and similar-sized small mammals, large insects, lizards, small birds and nestlings, and most famously, snakes. Small prey are preferred, but kookaburras not infrequently take surprisingly large creatures, including venomous snakes a good deal longer than the bird itself.