Baby kookaburra food

What Do Kookaburras Eat? (Complete Guide)

What do kookaburras eat in the wild?

What does the Laughing kookaburra eat?

How do kookaburras find food?

What time of day do kookaburras feed?

What do kookaburras eat in the winter?

What do kookaburras eat in the summer?

What do baby kookaburras eat?

What food can I feed kookaburras?

Do kookaburras visit bird feeders?

Do kookaburras feed on the ground?

Do kookaburras drink water?

Are kookaburras carnivores?

How do I attract kookaburras to my yard?

Kookaburra Diet FAQs

An emblematic bird of Australasia, kookaburras are perhaps known best for their incredible vocalisations. Kookaburras are closely related to kingfishers and are part of the same family Alcedinidae.

There are four species of Kookaburra in the genus Dacelo; the Laughing kookaburra, Blue-winged kookaburra, Rufous kookaburra and Spangled kookaburra. Another, the Shovel-billed kookaburra, sits within its own genus Clytoceyx. Here we’ll be answering the question in detail; what do kookaburras eat?

Kookaburras eat almost solely vertebrates and invertebrates, ranging from venomous snakes and amphibians to small insects and earthworms. But, like kingfishers, some kookaburras also hunt fish. Kookaburras perch at the height of around 1 to 10m and intently scan the area for prey before swooping down. They’re also observed digging for prey in the ground, especially in the case of the Shovel-billed kookaburra.

All species of kookaburras inhabit food-dense forests and rainforests, and likely have no trouble meeting their daily dietary demands!

But, of course, there is much more to learn about the diets and feeding habits of this unique and symbolic bird - read on to find out!

A Laughing Kookaburra feeding on a worm

What do kookaburras eat in the wild?

The five species of kookaburra all have relatively similar diets. These birds eat mainly arthropods, invertebrates and vertebrates. They’re considered carnivorous, as plant foods make up practically 0% of their diets.

Kookaburra diets are diverse, ranging from larger lizards, frogs and even venomous snakes to ants, termites and grasshoppers.

Laughing kookaburras are the largest kookaburras and have the most diverse diet, consuming all manner of small vertebrates ranging from mice to frogs, snakes and birds.

However, the majority of their diet consists of invertebrates such as beetles, ants, earwigs, centipedes, millipedes, caterpillars, moths and flies of various kinds. With that said, one study in Melbourne found that the Laughing kookaburra’s diet consisted of some 35% snakes and lizards.

Some of the favourite invertebrate prey of kookaburras include grasshoppers, beetles, ants, earwigs, moths, earthworms, cicada, flies, millipedes, spiders, stick insects and centipedes. In terms of vertebrates, kookaburras eat lizards, snakes, mice, rats, birds, nestlings and frogs.

Kookaburras also eat fish, catching them in a similar fashion to a kingfisher, and hunt and kill crustaceans such as crabs and crayfish by smashing them apart on rocks.

Studies of kookaburras generally find they consume more invertebrates than vertebrates; a study of the Blue-winged kookaburra found they consume 59% invertebrates and 41% vertebrates, for example.

Perched Kookaburra with a large caterpillar

What does the Laughing kookaburra eat?

The largest kookaburra, the Laughing kookaburra, has the most diverse diet of all kookaburras. These powerful birds are often spotted catching snakes and reptiles longer than themselves, then bludgeoning them to death on a rock or tree before dismembering them into smaller chunks to eat.

The kookaburras of Papua New Guinea (Shovel-billed, Rufous-bellied and Spangled kookaburras) have a more insect-driven diet.

How do kookaburras find food?

Kookaburras often find food by perching on a branch or human-made construction at a height of around 1 to 10m, scanning the floor for prey before swooping in to catch it. They also forage from the tree canopy, especially in the case of the smaller kookaburras of Papua New Guinea.

Kookaburras are sometimes observed digging in the ground while searching for ants, earthworms, earwigs and other terrestrial prey.

The Shovel-billed kookaburra is excellent at digging - they’re often observed routinely ‘ploughing’ specific areas to hunt for earthworms and other buried prey.

Like kingfishers, kookaburras catch aquatic prey like fish and amphibians. They’re capable of catching fish from just below the water's surface, but deeper dives have been observed - though not as impressive as other kingfishers.

Kookaburras also raid the nests of other birds in pursuit of nestlings, especially in the breeding season.

Perched Kookaburra waiting patiently for prey

What time of day do kookaburras feed?

Kookaburras are diurnal birds that roost for approximately 12-hours a day. They feed throughout much of the day, from daybreak to sunset.

Since kookaburras rely primarily on their vision to sight prey on the ground or in the tree canopy, they only hunt during good light conditions.

What do kookaburras eat in the winter?

The kookaburra’s winter diet will hardly differ from its standard diet. These are flexible, adaptable hunters that will eat most valid prey items in their habitats.

Winter in most parts of Australia is mild, if practically non-existent. June and July are the coldest months, with the temperature rarely dropping to 5-degrees celsius. Frosts are possible in isolated areas. In Papua New Guinea, winter temperatures rarely drop below 20-degree celsius!

Kookaburra eating a fish whilst perched on a branch

What do kookaburras eat in the summer?

In summer, the kookaburra’s diet is practically the same as their standard diet. Any valid prey items in their habitat will be readily hunted and consumed.

In much of Australia and Papua New Guinea, summer is roasting, with daytime temperatures regularly reaching 40-degrees celsius. As a result, Kookaburras will often shelter from the heat, confining themselves to the cool shade of their forest habitats.

What do baby kookaburras eat?

Baby kookaburras are primarily fed with soft invertebrates and insects. Typical food items include earthworms, crickets, grasshoppers, cicadas and beetles. Both parents feed the chicks, and are sometimes assisted by nest helpers.

Kookaburras live in family groups of around six birds, including last year’s young. These helpers help incubate and feed the chicks.

Kookaburra feeding on a swamp snake

What food can I feed kookaburras?

Kookaburras feed upon practically any meat scraps, including strips of beef, chicken and pork. They’ll also eat mealworms, preferably live ones.

Mice are often fed to captive or rescued kookaburras alongside mealworms and a specially-prepared feed. Kookaburras may also eat fruits and seeds if offered on a bird table or on the ground, but this isn’t their preferred food.

Do kookaburras visit bird feeders?

Kookaburras are much too large to visit back garden bird feeders, and therefore never frequent them.

However, they will swoop in to take meat scraps from bird tables. Overall, kookaburras prefer to take food from the ground. If you want to feed kookaburras, then offer them meat scraps scattered across the lawn.

A pair of Kookaburras being fed in the yard

Do kookaburras feed on the ground?

Kookaburras are adaptable, aggressive hunters, but their primary and preferred method to take prey is from the ground.

Some of the smaller Papua New Guinean kookaburras also hunt from the tree canopy and are observed fluttering between branches while collecting large insects.

Do kookaburras drink water?

Kookaburras are rarely seen drinking as they get much of their dietary water from their food.

Kookaburra having a drink of water

Are kookaburras carnivores?

Since they consume no vegetable or plant-based foods, kookaburras are considered carnivores. Their diets consist almost solely of invertebrates and vertebrates.

In captivity, kookaburras are often fed with fruits, seeds and other non-meat foods.

How do I attract kookaburras to my yard?

Kookaburras are straightforward to attract with mealworms and meat scraps. They prefer to feed directly from the ground, so you don’t need a bird table or feeder to attract them.

Kookaburras are also pretty fearless of humans and will feed from the hand - but be aware that they might mistake your finger for a juicy earthworm!

Kookaburra sat on a perch at the beach

Kookaburra Diet FAQs

Do kookaburras eat chicken?

Kookaburras won’t eat chicken in their native habitat - unless they opportunistically prey on a baby chicken. They will take chicken scraps from garden bird tables, however.

Do kookaburras eat snakes?

Kookaburras are excellent at hunting snakes and have been observed killing and eating snakes of some 1 metre in length! These birds kill snakes by bludgeoning them to death, and then dismembering them into small pieces before eating them.

Do kookaburras eat other birds?

Kookaburras eat other birds and their nestlings, but this isn’t particularly common. Overall, kookaburras are opportunistic predators who eat practically anything they can get their sharp beaks.

Laughing Kookaburra in flight

Do kookaburras eat gumdrops?

The song “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gumdrop Tree” refers to how these birds use gumdrop trees as a perch. They don’t actually eat the gumdrop seed pods, however. Kookaburras are carnivorous hunters.

Do kookaburras eat fish?

Kookaburras are also known as “terrestrial kingfishers” and are part of the same family as kingfishers, which are excellent at fishing. Kookaburras do catch and eat fish and crustaceans and have been observed diving slightly under the water's surface to do so. They don’t possess the same fishing prowess as many kingfishers, however.

Do kookaburras eat meat?

Kookaburras are considered carnivorous, so they only eat meat. Kookaburras eat meat in the form of vertebrates such as lizards, snakes, rodents, birds and other mammals, as well as invertebrates, in the form of flies, crickets, worms, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, beetles, etc.

Kookaburra eating a ghost crab

Do kookaburras eat bananas?

Captive kookaburras can develop a taste for fruit and may eat bananas. However, in the wild, kookaburras are considered carnivorous.

Do kookaburras eat frogs?

Kookaburras hunt and kill frogs and other amphibians. They’re opportunistic, aggressive hunters.

Do kookaburras eat seeds?

While wild kookaburras are carnivorous, captive kookaburras do reportedly eat birdseed.

Do kookaburras eat bread?

Wild kookaburras won’t eat bread, and shouldn’t be tempted to. In fact, bread isn’t particularly suitable for any bird.

Do kookaburras eat mice?

Kookaburras love to eat mice and other small mammals. They eat mice both in the wild and in captivity.

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Kookaburra Images

Kookaburra chicks


Most of us know only too well the distinctive sound of the Kookaburra, it is usually the first to wake us up, and the last of the bird calls heard at sun down. It tilts its head upwards and the tail moves up and down when making this distinctive sound. Early settlers are said to have been very unnerved by this laugh in the forest, probably not knowing at first what made it.

According to an Aboriginal legend that captures the imagination, the kookaburra’s famous chorus of laughter every morning is a signal for the sky people to light the great fire that illuminates and warms the earth by day. This familiar and glorious cacophony when dawn is just breaking and often the last bird calls heard as the sunsets, is to advertise to all the territory of this great bold bird.

The Laughing Kookaburra is found on the east coast of Australia living in open forest, woodlands, and often seen in suburban gardens, but also south east SA with introduced colonies in southern WA and Tasmania, living in open forests, Eucalypt woodlands and often seen in suburban parks, gardens, picnic grounds, schools and caravan parks due to human feeding. It is the largest of the Kingfisher family that has more than 80 species the world over, Australia is home to 10 species, the Laughing Kookaburra being one.

Plumage of both adults is similar except for the male having extensively more flecked blue feathers on the lower back and tail. Their large heads are off white marked with a dark brown stripe thru each eye to the center crown, mantle and wings dark brown, flecked light blue over shoulders, lower back and rump russet brown/black and tail same russet color with black bands. Under parts entirely off white and faintly gray down the flanks, eye deep brown, cream/bone colored large beak, feet olive/cream and claws dusty. They have 3 toes forward and 1 backward with the 2nd and 3rd toes joined for most of their length. The fused toes help them in excavating nests, but make walking almost impossible so they hop/jump when on the ground. Big cumbersome chicks are born bulging eyes closed, gray/bluish skin all over slowly developing pin feathers, big heads, beaks and feet. They are completely helpless and dependant on their parents (Altricial)

Kookaburras form permanent pairs, are very good parents and take so long to rear their young to independence that more than one clutch per seasons is unlikely. Breeding is September-January and after a short courtship to renew their bond they clear out their nest usually situated in the hollow of a tree or any cavity large enough for the adults such as a termite mould (so once again leave those old limbs and hollows on trees), the nest will have a flattened entrance hole so that the chicks can reverse backwards and excrete over the side. They lay 1-4 white rounded eggs, incubation is 24 days by female and other group members, as is feeding and parental duties. Fledging takes approx. 5 weeks with the babies grabbing any food that is brought into the hollow often attacking, sometimes fatally, the youngest chick. After they begin to fly the fledglings are fed by the adults of the group for up to 13 weeks and instead of being forced out of the territory, most stay to help their parents defend boundaries and protect further offspring.

The Kookaburra rarely eat fish as one might assume from its Kingfisher name, nor do they drink much water, being like raptors (birds of prey like eagles, owls) and getting most of their moisture from the blood of their prey. Apart from that they are not selective feeders, eating a high protein live diet of small snakes, lizards, rats, mice, snails, worms, grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas, beetles, caterpillars, ants, yabbies & crayfish, spiders, frogs, the odd small bird, various insects and invertebrates. They watch in silence from a vantage point in a tree, and then swoop down to catch the prey. They kill their prey by holding it in their strong beak, and beating it against a tree branch.

In favorable conditions they can live up to 20 years old or more, their birth rate is low to keep pace with the slow death rate and population turn over is very slow. (Although with car collisions, window collisions and barb wire entanglement their numbers are decreasing faster than ever before). Kookaburras are family oriented birds. Their groups usually consist of one dominant breeding couple, other adult non-breeding birds (who share the load with incubation, baby sitting, feeding, teaching skills necessary for survival and defending territory boundaries), immature birds from previous broods and juveniles . The adult non-breeding birds can be male or female, but not necessarily, progeny of the dominant pair. They co-exist in a strict hierarchy. The group is maintained in this order whilst the non-breeding adults are content to remain in their position in this order. As soon as non-dominant birds decide to challenge for a change in the status quo they are either subdued or forced to leave the group – the latter is most often the case.

This bird is great to have around as it will catch introduced pests such as mice, a good reason to use traps and not rat bait if you are experiencing an influx of mice. Many native animals die due to rat bait, they will not necessarily eat the bait, but they will most certainly eat a dying mouse or rat thus ingesting the poison. As wildlife carers we get a variety of native animals in to care that have ingested poison in this manner, unfortunately in most instances it is too late to save these animals. Please consider the alternative use of traps, I know it can be unpleasant, but please consider the long term effect for not only Kookaburras, but all the native species that eat mice and rats. They are in fact our best pest control.

It can be tempting to feed these birds, but the problems with this practice are many, the wrong food is often provided thus resulting in the birds suffering from dietary deficiencies, deformed young, spreading of disease, overpopulation of particular species. They need whole live foods to get the calcium, proteins, minerals and fluids that they need to sustain healthy growth.

Alternatives if you wish to have more bird life in your garden, plant native plants, this will encourage the birds into your garden without upsetting the natural balance. Put a birdbath in a shady spot in the garden, remember to clean it regularly as with everything when you have a lot of different species using it, it need to be clean so as not to spread disease.

Create a compost spot in the garden; it will attract insects, thus giving birds such as Kookaburras a natural food source.

Animal lover and wildlife watcher Colleen from Casino has contacted WIRES numerous times in the past when she has found native animals or birds in distress. Recently, she told us about an unusual visitor to her garden -- an albino kookaburra. The kookaburra visited her garden sometimes with a family group but was often on its own.

Kookaburras are terrestrial tree kingfishers. The name is thought to be a loanword from Wiradjuri guuguubarra, a word that sounds like the bird's call. Kookaburras live in family groups but it is common for many species to shun members of their groups who are different because their unusual appearance can attract predators. These individuals are likely to be lonely and struggle to find food on their own.

Albinos usually have pale eyes and poor eyesight: those active during the day are inhibited in their ability to find food and avoid predators. Casino's bird is mostly white but has slight colouration and its eyes are dark and its eyesight is very good.
Our Casino albino is doubly fortunate: Colleen reports that another kookaburra has become a companion so hopefully they are now a pair. It will be interesting to see if any offspring are hatched and whether they will have the unusual colouring.

Kookaburras eat lizards, snakes, insects, mice and small birds. The most social birds will accept handouts from humans and will even take raw or cooked meat from or near open-air barbecues left unattended. It is not advised to feed birds meat as it does not include calcium and other nutrients essential to maintain their health. Remainders of mince on the bird's beak can fester and cause serious health problems.




Images above by Sharon McGrigor, Allira Cornell & Alicia Carter & Melanie Barsony and Anom

Reference: Field Guide to the Birds Of Australia
Simpson & Day
Every Australian Bird Illustrated, Rigby




Updated March 2021


Kookaburra (bird).

Photo, video

Kookaburra is the largest representative of the kingfisher family. This bird is very similar to other species, but there is a significant difference - it does not catch fish. Report on a bird with a video and photo

detachment - Raksha -shaped

Family - winter genus/View - Dacelo Gigas. Laughing kookaburra, giant kingfisher. The correct name is kurabara, but the name "kookaburra" is common among the people

Main data:


Length: 45 cm.

mass: to 500 g.


9000 SMENDAY: from 1 year.

Number of eggs: 2-3.

Incubation: about 20 days.

Feeding chicks: about 30 days.


Habits: Kookaburras (see photo of the bird) keep in flocks with a hierarchical organization.

Food: insects and other invertebrates, small mammals such as rodents, reptiles, in particular snakes, birds and their chicks.


Kookaburra belongs to the Kingfisher family. A subspecies, the blue-winged kookaburra, lives in the warmer regions of northern Australia.

Usually a kookaburra sits on a tree branch and patiently waits for some small animal to appear below. The prey of this bird is most often animals that harm humans. Therefore, people like this kingfisher and consider it their helper.


The kookaburra nests in hollow trees. Sometimes he uses for this hollow, carved by wood termites, cracks in the walls of houses. The female lays 2-3 eggs.

For a few months after birth, chicks are still completely dependent on their parents or their helpers. These are the chicks from the previous litter, which remain in the nest and help their parents feed their newborns and protect the territory of the settlement from predatory animals and birds.

Annoyed kookaburra makes sounds resembling laughter. She screams especially loudly in the evening. At this time, a loud chorus of bird voices is heard.


There are two subspecies of this kingfisher. The first lives only in the forests of the northern state of Queensland, in Eastern Australia. Another subspecies is more common - it inhabits forests, grassy steppes, thickets and open spaces where trees are found. This subspecies breeds successfully on the island of Tasmania. Kookaburra settles in dense forests only in exceptional cases. Basically, she prefers woodlands with thin-stemmed trees covered with dense foliage. In such a forest there is enough grass and other vegetation, among which the kingfisher hunts, looking for the food he needs. In these light forests, in contrast to the dark and dense Australian acacia, many types of trees grow. Such forests exist mainly in the north of the continent, and eucalyptus trees can still be found in them.


The kookaburra hunts during the daytime. Waiting for prey, sitting on a tree. The kookaburra feeds on crustaceans, snakes, and, occasionally, the chicks of other birds. The kookaburra hunting method is very simple, the main thing in it is patience and a lightning attack. The kookaburra sits on a fairly high branch and waits for the right prey to appear, such as an insect, a small amphibian, a mammal, or a bird. Then she rushes down and grabs her prey with a strong long beak.

This method of hunting is also characteristic of other representatives of the kingfisher family, which hunt fish in the same way. But the kookaburra does not fish - it prefers insects and small vertebrates. The inhabitants of Australia love the kookaburra because it eats poisonous snakes.


In the morning, Australian radio calls play her scream. The local population loves this bird, so they settled it in many parts of the country. In zoos, the kookaburra is rare, although it lives for a long time in captivity.

This is an arboreal bird that has adapted to life in the thickets of Australia. One of the largest kingfishers, which is even called the giant kingfisher. Lives in eastern Australia. The body length is up to 45 cm. Unlike the common kingfisher, the kookaburra is not at all connected with water. Her loud cries are reminiscent of laughter. At times, the cry of a kookaburra is similar to the cry of a donkey. The main food is reptiles. Especially often the kookaburra catches snakes. It also feeds on lizards, insects, and destroys bird nests.


  • The kookaburra betrays its presence with cries resembling laughter, which is why it is also called the laughing kingfisher.
  • Kookaburra is the largest kingfisher. Lives only in Australia and on the island of Tasmania.
  • This kingfisher can perfectly imitate sounds, for example, a locomotive whistle.


Head and neck: the head is large, and the neck, like that of other kingfishers, is short.

Wings: light blue feathers visible on the upper side of the wings.

Beak: long, peaked, pointed and slightly flattened.

- Habitat of the kookaburra

WHERE THE Kookaburra lives

The population of the laughing kingfisher (kookaburra) in its habitats - Australia and Tasmania - is quite large. The blue-winged kookaburra lives in the warmer regions of Northern Australia.


Kookaburra is not in danger of extinction, so it does not need protection. In Tasmania, the number of this species is constantly increasing.

Kookaburra Laughing... Video (00:00:33)

Dacelo novaeguineae sings. .. Video (00:00:57)

Kookaburra and a piece of chicken, Sydney, Australia. Video (00:00:32)


Kookaburras. Video (00:00:16)

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