San Diego Zoo Global has had kookaburras in our collection on and off since the early 1930s. We currently have two laughing kookaburra ambassadors at the San Diego Zoo and one at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Crikey and Matilda live at the Zoo. They hatched on June 18, 2007, at a private breeding facility and were handled from a very young age so that they would be used to being touched and held by people. Crikey is part of the Zoo’s Backstage Pass program, which offers guests up-close encounters with a variety of wonderful animals. Matilda gets to meet school groups and help with education programs. She will soon be featured in the Zoo’s new Australian Outback habitat, which is scheduled to open in spring 2013.
The Safari Park is home to Zeke, an elder kookaburra who’s still going strong! Hatched on May 19, 1991, at the Audubon Zoo in Louisiana, he arrived at the Park in 1992, where he participates in animal presentations and educational programs. He’s even visited TV news stations during his long career. Zeke enjoys having his trainers spray him with a fine mist of water on warm days, and he responds to a siren’s call with his own song long before his trainers can hear the siren!
All three kookaburra ambassadors have learned to sit on a keeper or trainer’s hand. Kookaburras can hold their heads perfectly still while their body moves so that they can focus on prey while sitting on a swaying branch, and our guests love seeing them do that. It looks like a reverse bobblehead!
Australia is full of unique animals, but the laughing kookaburra must be one of the most well known. The bird prefers dry forests with streams but is also commonly found in backyards, parks, and gardens. Its population is stable in the wild and seems to thrive in the presence of humans: the birds are known to be bold and steal food from picnics, sometimes snatching hot meat straight from the barbeque!
The kookaburra’s natural range is eastern and southern Australia, but in 1897 it was introduced into the southwest corner of the continent and in 1905 into Tasmania as well. Several attempts were made to import the species into New Zealand, but a population became established just around the city of Auckland.
Australians are proud of their famous bird; Olly the Kookaburra was one of three mascots for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.