Friday, October 16, 2009

The Elusive Kookaburra

As I drove away from work yesterday I noticed a Kookaburra sitting on the perimeter fence. Its presence reminded me that I have not yet added a Kookaburra to the list of birds I’ve seen at home. It’s not that they are particularly rare. It’s not that there are none around – they can be heard quite often – but they are always somewhere else and not in plain sight.

Anyone who has heard this bird will not forget its laugh. It’s perhaps one of the western world’s most familiar bird calls, made famous by its inappropriate presence in almost every Tarzan or “African jungle” movie made by Hollywood. Inappropriate because it is native only to Australia.

The Kookaburra has a significant place in my family’s memory. Several years go when we still lived in Sydney, we took my parents to Lane Cove National Park for a picnic. As we sat eating we noticed a Kookaburra sitting in a nearby tree. After commenting on its presence we turned our attention to other matters. Almost immediately we were shaken by the sudden assault of flapping wings as the bird snatched my dad’s sandwich from between his hand and mouth, leaving a small cut on his lip.

Apart from providing a memorable incident, the bird had shown us its ability to swoop swiftly and silently upon its prey. By the time it applied the brakes (with the sudden flap of wings) the small targeted critter (or in our case the sandwich) would have no time to escape the bird’s claws.

The photo illustrating this post is one I took in Sydney at the Cumberland State Forest. They are not timid birds, as can be seen from how close I was able to get to take the picture. People who have Kookaburras regularly visiting their homes can often hand feed them with scraps of meat. But considering how elusive they seem to be near to my house I doubt I’ll every have that experience while we’re living here.

more information on the Kookaburra can be found here:

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