A small, stout hunting bird native to Australia and New Guinea and closely related to kingfishers. It has a loud, braying call that sounds a lot like a human laughing. Its call is a territorial sound to warn other kookaburras to stay clear. It also has a softer call that sounds like a human's chuckle, which is used to help keep kookaburra family members together. If you've ever seen a cartoon or an old movie set in a jungle, you know what a kookaburra's call sounds like (even though kookaburras don't actually live in jungles).

Kookaburras are most likely to laugh in the evening and morning hours, when they sometimes cackle together in loud choruses. They are so punctual that they are also known as the "bushman's clock."

To a numismatist (coin collector), Kookaburras are high quality, fine silver coins from Australia produced by the Perth Mint.

They come in both proof and mint uncirculated versions and range from one ounce to one kilogram (the world's largest regular production silver coin) in weight.

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According to all the web sites I've looked it up on, a traditional Australian song with no known author. I've often heard it sung as a round.

Kookaburra sits on an old gum tree,
Merry, merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra; laugh, Kookaburra --
Gay your life must be.

Kookaburra is also the name of a Australian cricket and field hockey equipment manufacturer. Kookaburra cricket balls have been almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere since World War II. The Kookaburra dimpled hockey ball has been the official Olympic hockey ball since 1984. Kookaburra also make a wide range of cricket bats (as used by Ricky Ponting and Dean Jones), cricket shoes (as used by Brett Lee) and other cricket clothing.

Kookaburra Sport was created by the English born Alfred Thompson. He made assorted sporting balls including rugby and AFL. After World War II, the ACB wanted to have a standard cricket ball for all official matches. The A.G. Thompson "Kookaburra Turf" was selected as the preferred ball and to this day it still has a monopoly on the cricket ball industry. Kookaburra also make the white cricket ball used in one-day matches in Australia. The main feature of the "Kookaburra Turf" is the ability to retain its shine longer than any other cricket ball made in Australia (see cricket ball for why this is important).

The Kookaburras are also the national Australian field hockey team. They have achieved much success winning six Olympic medals, eighteen Champions Trophy medals and five World Cup medals. They are the only team to win three medals in the past three Olympics. Their pool for the upcoming Commonwealth Games includes: Scotland, South Africa and Malaysia.

My aunt told me a story about how she went camping with my uncle and an American friend of theirs. They were sitting down for dinner when a chattering, laughing cry filled the air. Startled, the American friend exclaimed "I didn't know you have monkeys in Australia!"

It was not a monkey, of course; it was a kookaburra, one of the quintessential Australian birds. They are the laughing spirits of the Aboriginal dreamtime, the jokers, pests, and troublemakers. There are many stories of how the kookaburra got his laugh. Their distinctive cries and patchy white-and-brown bodies are a familiar feature of the bush.

They are also meat eaters, and one of the few natural predators of snakes. I've seen them line up on a branch above a frying pan or BBQ, and swoop down to take sausages straight off the hotplate, to the extreme annoyance of the chef. They've even been known to swoop past your face and try and take the meat out of your sandwich as you raise it to your mouth. This may be an urban myth although I can definitely see it happening. The kookaburras must be gorging themselves at the moment, with the huge amount of cicadas we've had this summer.

The local primary school in my suburb has the school houses named after Australian bushland birds: Kookaburra, Rosella, Magpie, and Lorikeet. All the class clowns and "high-spirited" kids (like my brother) seemed to end up in Kookaburra house.

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