Of Kookaburras and Kingfishers, Parrots and Poetry

Kookaburra Contemplating Life from my balcony

Kookaburra Contemplating Life from my balcony

I spend a lot of time in my study, which has a sliding door leading out to a balcony. A few weeks ago I noticed a kookaburra sitting on my balcony railing. Kookaburras are common on the east coast of Australia, but not on my balcony. I quickly grabbed my smart-phone, gently opened the door, and snatched a sneaky, blurry, photo of her (I think it is a she).

I was put in mind of her last week when I got into a conversation about kingfishers with fellow blogger Agnes Ashe. Kingfishers and Kookaburras are related, and even though there are several varieties in each species, the only one I am familiar with is the laughing kookaburra, and if you play the sound clip in the link you will understand why it is called that! The clip runs for about 50 seconds, and I recommend you listen to at least the first twenty.

It turns out that one of our residents has taken up photography, and had also had a “visitation”. So here is a slideshow of some vastly superior photographs, courtesy of Michael Rayner.

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Kookaburras are carnivorous and adventurous. One time, at an outdoor barbecue, just as we were lifting the first sausage off the cook-plate and into a bread roll, a nearby bird swooped and scooped it out. He belted it against a tree as if killing a snake and then gobbled it straight down, showing a little shock at the heat of it, but persisting! This was one bird who had never heard “sharing is caring”.

I suspect the reason the pictured Kookaburra started visiting us is because our extensive gardens were severely pruned back, and that would have reduced the cover for lizards and other yummy food treats. Perched high on the balconies, Miss Kooka could survey the smorgasbord below her. The pruning also reduced the nectar for parrots, and they had not been around for a long time, whereas before we had swarms of them. Yesterday, however, I saw my first pair of rainbow lorikeets return. Actually, you hear their screeching and chattering well before you spot the bird! And I am happy to say that the gardener is well aware of what food they like, and his replanting has taken that into consideration. Here are some photos of Rainbow Lorikeets that I took on a road trip to Tamworth last year.

Thinking of Kookaburras and Kingfishers has given me two flashbacks to primary school days. One is singing the round “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” (written by Marion Sinclair) in a combined school choir performance at the Sydney Town Hall, and the other is the first poem I ever wrote, just before my twelfth birthday. Our wonderful teacher had introduced us to free verse (poetry that does not rhyme or have a regular rhythm). Having such restrictions lifted from my shoulders gave birth to a torrent of creativity. And if some of my readers feel that last phrase was purple prose, wait till you read this. I suspect I must have been reading Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame) at the time.


Calm, quiet and still is the river,
a gentle blue like that of the sky on a clear day.
Surrounded by lush, green grass.
Tall, sweeping willows line its fair banks.
Kingfishers hover silently over
the swans so purely white and kingly as they glide.

A racing, rushing, bubbling river,
sparkling in the sun.
Tumbling over rocks swift and rapid.
Angry at their firmness.
The waterfall too is seething with anger,
as it flows down the steep incline,
to end in a foaming mass of white far below.

Slow and lazy is the stream,
as it twists and winds on its way to the main river.
Trickling over pebbles on a sandy bed.
How pretty it is!

I think it wasn’t too bad for a first attempt, but I did give up writing poetry a few years later, and never took it up again.

Another view from my study balcony - Sunset on Halloween 2015

Another view from my study balcony – Sunset on Halloween 2015



25 thoughts on “Of Kookaburras and Kingfishers, Parrots and Poetry

  1. Pingback: English Gull Good, Australian Seagull Bad | The Reluctant Retiree

  2. Great pics…reminds me of two things…1) coming across a Kookaburra in a parrot park in Tennessee, USA of all places. It was all alone in a good sized outdoor aviary and looked at me (disdainfully) as if I was just another ‘local’. Having also experienced Kookaburras at BBQ time in my backyard in North Rocks, Sydney I gave him or her (how can you tell?) a hearty Kookaburra laugh and he/she snapped to attention and was my new best mate…I felt guilty leaving him there!! 2) Ah, the Rainbow Lorikeets, reminded me of my first pet parrot – Keating, lol.


    • According to the fount of all knowledge, a.k.a. Wikipedia, the male has some blue feathers around its rump, while the female is the larger of the two. Although how you would tell without a pair to compare – who knows? And I hope you are telling me you had a parrot you named “Keating” and you are not referring to the ex-Prime Minister who gave us such fabulous quotes as: “It was the limpest performance I have ever seen … it was like being flogged with a warm lettuce. It was like being mauled by a dead sheep.” (on John Hewson’s debating skills) and “I am not like the Leader of the Opposition. I did not slither out of the Cabinet room like a mangy maggot.” 🙂


      • Yup, we would sing it over and over. I don’t believe the ‘gay’ problem, though I can imagine how he or she climbed into that hole. Many, many years ago, I was thoughtlessly half way through teaching my tots ‘eenie, meanie, miny, mo…’ and had to make a sudden substitution. But ‘gay’ is surely not a problem, or does it produce and endless giggle, perhaps.

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        • I think the hilarity/sniggering angle was his reasoning and defence. Many years ago, when I was around 15, our class had to study Herman Melville’s sailor saga: Billy Budd, by taking turns to read it aloud. At the end our teacher said, “congratulations. I’ve never heard it done as a sex saga before.” 🙂


  3. That’s what I miss about living on the Northern Beaches, thee wildlife, when In Manly we shared our home with a large family of Blue Tongues and there was also a family of Kookaburras who paid us regular visits, we had glorious huge gum trees in the back garden which the lorikeets loved too. When we move up to Newport we lost and missed our Blue Tongues and the wild turkeys were great but no substitute, they had a habit of wandering oto the road and getting themselves killed, pretty much like the ‘roos,

    Sadly now living close to the big smoke we’ve lost the wildlife, however there are plenty of ‘birds’ flying overhead, we now live on the final approaches to Kingsford Smiths north runway, 😀


    • We are scrunched between the sea and the escarpment of the Illawarra. We don’t get much bush wildlife, but there are a number of species of water birds: heron, cattle egrets, waterfowl and so forth. Plenty of pelicans! Amazing sight when they fly in formation past my 5th floor window. Something like the Airbus in your skies 🙂 We had a little hobby hawk knock himself out against our balcony glass, but after a night resting in the dark in a cardboard carton, we were able to release him the next day. We used to live inner Sydney city before the move – I didn’t mind the fruit bats, but didn’t have much time for the Indian Mynahs and Ibis. It’s been decades, though, since I lived in real bush and enjoyed all that had to offer. My aunt persisted in trying to grow daffodils and a wombat used to walk through the patch every night.


  4. Oh yes, you can see that the kookaburras and kingfishers had a common ancestor way back in the mists of time. I listened to their laughing call – is it my imagination or have I heard a song incorporating that laugh? Or is it one of those sounds that accompanies stories/promos about Australia? That’s going to bug me all day!!!! Great photos of those fabulous lorikeets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder if you ever saw Australian newsreel footage of the type that would play in cinemas before the movies. Fox Movietone News (1929-1970 and produced in Australia) used the laughing kookaburra as its logo. Also, several over-the-top Australian movies such as Crocodile Dundee and Australia, would have the laugh as part of the background soundtrack when characters are trekking through the bush, to re-inforce to the viewer that yes, we are in Australia. (Subtle as a sledgehammer). Or you might be thinking of the Men at Work hit “Down Under”.They were sued (successfully) for including a riff that bore too strong a resemblance to the song I had to sing at the Town Hall. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-02-04/men-at-work-plundered-kookaburra-riff-court/321624
      The lorikeets are wonderful, aren’t they? I mused that you might take inspiration from the one who is twisting around to get at that one special, tasty berry on the tree.


      • Ah thanks for all that – think it might have been Crocodile Dundee which I’ve seen several times as it used to be a fav with my mum – she liked Paul Hogan’s twinkle. But on the other hand I certainly remember “Down Under” it was a huge hit when I left home to live in London. It was the first time I’d heard of Vegemite!
        I do love lorikeets and parrots in general – both their shape and colours are inspirational. I once painted some cotton with macaws which I made into shorts. I do envy you having them cavorting round your gardens.


        • Linda Kozlowski liked his twinkle also, much to the chagrin of Hoges first wife, Noelene Edwards. It led to their (second!) divorce. They originally married in the late 50s.
          I wonder if you ever made out the lyrics of “Down Under”? It’s an anthem of the Australian backpacking experience. The repetitive phrase: “Where women glow and men plunder” is changed at one point to: “Where beer does flow and men chunder”. Personally, in all my four years of “backpacking” around Europe, I kept my distance from the Aussie contingent, (I didn’t need to watch them chunder), even though I was offered a spot in a Kombi Van at one point. You might remember used Kombis changed hands outside Australia House in the Strand? And yes! Vegemite is an acquired taste, not to be confused with Marmite.


          • Yes, I remember that Vegemite is supposed to be very much NOT Marmite, but as I’m a ‘hate Marmite’ person, I’ve never been persuaded to try Vegemite! But long live Kombis – my daughter went to her Prom in a friend of a friend’s restored and redecorated Kombi. The interior had been painted with a Rococo ceiling, looked fabulous, but didn’t come out in the photos (too dark) – shame.

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