Kookaburra call's a sign of rain?

70 posts / 0 new
Last post
cooee
cooee's picture
Kookaburra call's a sign of rain?

Hi all, a while ago I remember someone telling me that a kookaburras call means that it is going to rain. I suppose this could be true, so Im just wandering if anyone else knows if this is true or have noticed this.
Maybe all bird calls are a harbinger of something...?

Raven
Raven's picture

Our local family of four Kooka's call just about every morning just before daylight onwards, rain or no rain! Happy little family they are, and so vocal!

Woko
Woko's picture

I haven't noticed a connection between kookaburras & rain so far. We have a pair calling at present & I suspect their calling has more to do with breeding than rain.

soakes
soakes's picture

I have observed that kookaburras call nearly every time they land in a new perch. I suspect it is about letting their family know where they are.

- soakes

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

Araminta
Araminta's picture

All birds sing after they wake up every morning. They have to do it, to find out who is still alive, where they are, where the females are,( or the competition?).They are finding out where the boundaries are, or if they can take over someone elses territory.( Birds might have died, or been killed over night?) There is a great deal of meaning behind the "bird's song". It is mainly our interpretation, that they sing for fun. They might do that AFTER the RAIN.

M-L

Woko
Woko's picture

The morning bird call is one of the great events of our world. And it's frequent, regular & free. I can't think of anything to match it for value or quality.

mrtattoo
mrtattoo's picture

All great comments especially ML & woko. i have heard people say not only kookas regarding rain, but Corellas aswell. maybe its like you say, its how we are interpreting it.

if your happy when your birding, flap your wings.

suz764
suz764's picture

My 60 year old mum always said that if the kookaburras call at night (not dusk) it's a sign of rain, something that her father used to say. He grew up on the land in Victoria and had lots of other sayings about animal behaviour and the weather ie: birds lining up on power lines, seagulls coming in from the coast (both signify bad weather on the way). This time last year we were plagued by ants in Central QLD only to be followed by one of the worst wet seasons ever seen (another old bush observation).

Regardless of when and why they call I still love hearing our family of kookaburras singing loudly =)

Araminta
Araminta's picture

Hi suz, I am very interested in what you are saying!!! So many of those old sayings are so right!! If you have more of them, keep telling them to people! I only know a few. All of them are true !! Like, from where I live I can see the Mountains, old people say, if the mountains look blue, it will rain. Too right!!! Also, if the frogs are very noisy, it will rain! Yes it will!If the Blackbirds sing, because the worms come up, the rains are coming! Tell me more! Thanks, M-L

M-L

mtck
mtck's picture

Hello all,
Many people say if you here the Currawongs calling, its a sign of rain/snow coming.
However l believe that Currawongs calling is related to a change in barometric pressure. They become very vociferous just before bad weather in the mountains.
Black Cockatoos flying down from the mountains into the valley below and calling at the same time, is a very good sign of bad, bad weather in the mountains.

Raven
Raven's picture

The Pied Currawongs have been calling every morning and evening here for just on four weeks. Observing them through the binoculars reveals a "courtship" ritual, it's Spring, and they are looking for a mate!

No connection with rain or snow. It hasn't snowed in Sydney for decades now). As for barometric pressure, it must have been a crazy month for the barometer!

Interesting to watch them cartwheeling and chasing each other through the air, and the courtship rituals on the ground and in the trees, the varied whistles and calls (the male offering a twig to a potential partner). Superb entertainment, thank you Pied Currawongs!

divineearthgoddess
divineearthgoddess's picture

Yes, from my experience Kookaburra's signify rain.  It might not come for a couple of days however it will come.  When we were camping one year at North Stradbroke Island in Queensland the Kookaburra's wouldn't stop cackling.  Even when we went to the amenties block they would be sitting all around cackling just outside.

I have noticed myself over the years too if I hear a Kookaburra through the night rain usually comes that day.

Perhaps it is a rejoice of all the juicy worms that will rise to the surface on rainfall?


 

timmo
timmo's picture

From my experience Kookaburras particularly seem to call at dawn and dusk. Haven't noticed any particular association with rain.

Cheers
Tim
Brisbane

Chris 333
Chris 333's picture

I think that some of the old sayings get oversimplified and a vital part of the observation is dropped.  So they no longer work.

For instance, years ago I was told that it was a sign of impending rain "when the black cockatoos fly"....

So what do they do when it's dry? I thought.  Take  the bus? 

I rather liked the idea of a line of cockatoos waiting at a bus stop, scanning the skies for signs that they might get the chance to fly. smiley

Woko
Woko's picture

Good one, Chris. We need to be careful about generalizing from a small number of observations. Just because it rains doesn't mean there's a line of cockatoos waiting for the bus.

soakes
soakes's picture

Well, I heard a kookaburra yesterday and it rained last night, so that pretty well proves it.

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

Owl of Kedumba
Owl of Kedumba's picture

Soakes, that's probably a coincidence. Kookaburra's call, sometimes it rains and sometimes it doesn't.

Woko
Woko's picture

That was a good one, too, soakes!

Wollemi
Wollemi's picture

Bird behaviour is very interesting and observing it is always a good way to occupy my time. We did have a recent increase in kookaburra presence and an increase in kookaburra's calling followed by rain, however I am tempted to think the increase in kookburra presence has more to do with young kookaburras leaving the nest and finding their way in the world.

More kookaburras = more kookaburra noise!

The rain was a blessed coincidence.

emma_2
emma_2's picture

Okay people KOOKABURRAS:

Kookaburras laugh at FIRST LIGHT

Kookaburras laugh at LAST LIGHT

This is not the same as dawn and dusk

The kookas in a tree at the top of the hill will have a different first light to the kookas who live in a tree in the valley.

Obviously.

ALSO - Kookas laugh at a dramatic CHANGE OF WEATHER.

If the weather is going to suddenly get HOTTER, the kookas will have a chat about it

If the weather is going to change to RAIN, the kookas will have a chat about it

So if you're listening, the kookas can let you know if you need a brolly or a sunhat.

They do not seem to comment if the weather is going to stay about the same.

However, I  have heard the Kookas laughing in the middle of the night, like at 3:30AM and I have no idea why they do this.

Anyone?

:)

jason

Um..Em.  Its 5.32am and I have been just listening to the Kookas laugh away for the past 5 minutes while I read this thread.  Not a sign of first light or dawn, so 3.30 sounds fair.

I think as mentioned before, its a form of communicating who's around, what new for the day.  What happened just before bed. Not so sure for weather forcasting.  I can hear their jollie raucous entrence to the day every day rain or shine. 

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

soakes
soakes's picture

Yep, and as previously mentioned I have observed kookaburras laughing after moving from one tree to another.

I really don't think they are predicting or reacting to changing weather.

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

jason

Has anyone ever been bombed dived by Kookaburras?  I have, I guess they took a leaf out of the Magpies hand book.  It was open grassy bushland and I was walking dogs. No actual contact but swooped very close. It sure put a tingle up my spine and gave me goosebumps.  Only happened twice but that was enough.   

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

GregL
GregL's picture

To me kookaburras only have one reason to laugh and that is to say "piss off this is my territory, go and find somewhere else to live!". They are intensely territorial birds, a breeding pair have to constantly stake their territory. I don't think they take any pleasure in the company of any kooka except their mate, even their children are not welcome after fledging.

I think a kooka that swoops is just looking for food, some people feed them and they get upset when the food supply runs out.

soakes
soakes's picture

I haven't exactly been dive-bombed by kookaburras, but I have had them steal or attempt to steal my food on numerous occasions!  One almost picked up a whole chicken leg (not just the drumstick) but dropped it just long enough for me to grab it back.  They can be quite aggressive (or I should say single-minded).  They don't attack, but they do zero in on the food, despite me waving hands, arms, sticks or major weapons at them!  I have hit them out of the air a few times; they always look quite offended!

On the subject of territory - I'm sure this is largely true, but I have seen 4 or 5 of them in the same close vicinity.  They seem to tolerate each other pretty well.

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

jason

Yes soakes, I have had a kooka fly down and pinch a sausage off a BBQ plate over an open fire.  Then sat on a low tree branch as to say " sure ya want it back" kokokakahahahahkoka. 

And recently at Girraween NP a kooka pinched some bacon off the kids plate.  It was on for all amongst the Currawongs, Magpies, and Kookaburras.  This bit of bacon changed hands several times and was like the wholy grail for them all. Quite interesting to watch but in the end the Kooka won out.   

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

Woko
Woko's picture

Jaosn, would the presence of your dogs have had anything to do with being dive bombed by the Kookaburras?

jason

Possibily I guess.  I had been walking down there for a couple of years and had never been swooped.   The area had some mature gums where they were perched.  Can't recall if it was breading season, or the time of the year, and it only happened twice than I avoided the area. 

Just recall when all of a sudden I heard the swoosh go past my ears I got goose bumps all over.  I looked up and completely amazed and a bit alarmed at what it was.  Once upon a time I got dive bombed a lot delivering the local free paper as kid. The sting of my sweat on the back of the neck after the Maggie got me, never forget it. 

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

Gertrock
Gertrock's picture

As someone (who no doubt knows a lot more about birds than I do) Kookaburras do laugh in the morning and night. It's when kookaburras laugh in the afternoon that signifies rain is coming.  

rawshorty
rawshorty's picture

I love these comical threads :))))

Shorty......Canon gear

Canberra

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rawshorty/ 

jason

Here is another odd observation, we have the laziest plovers around here in my part of the world.  They breed in the park, and on the wide footpaths we have around here outside people houses.  From what I have noticed there are 3 pairs currently doing so in an area of suburbia about 800 x 500m square, so not big.  We have a lot of kids who enjoy the outdoors, roaming the area like we did when kids, so presume one amongst them must stir up the plovers at some point.  But no, they plovers just seem to get up and walk away.  Little kids on pushbikes not a problem, people walking dogs the same, all very casual. It seems people sprinting for refuge is a thing of the past around here.  I do however hear them calling at 2 or 3 in the morning often in flight, so figure a dam cat has caused the alarm. 

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

soakes
soakes's picture

Well, it happened again.  I heard a kookaburra yesterday and today it is raining.  Come on you naysayers, what do you say about that!?

P.S. ;-)

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

emma_2
emma_2's picture

Well soakes there's always a cynic - looks like it's YOU! :)

I was pretty specific about the situations in which kookaburras chat about the weather - yes every day at first light and last light, as reiterated by Gertrock.... and the rest as mentioned above.

It should be noted- these calls are over and above the usual territorial stuff.

Kookas are the masters of the Bush Herald, letting every other creature know what's going on. 

I guess some people like to have a poke at other people online, rather than taking the time to observe nature in all her glory!!

Peace and Much Love to Mother Nature and you too soakes :) 

soakes
soakes's picture

You are right.  I like to poke at people who perpetuate myths.  I am pretty sure that what is being perpetuated in this thread is a myth.  I do not like people "believing" things that are not true.  Also, I have been observing nature for most of my (rather long) life.

I am sure that many birds react to extreme weather events.  I am not so sure that they predict or broadcast them in the manner you describe.  If there have been any scientific studies conducted on this topic, I would appreciate hearing about them.  In the meantime, I will continue to hear my local kookaburras call every day at any time of day or night, but mostly early in the morning and late in the evening, whether it is going to rain or not!

:-D

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

GregL
GregL's picture

I don't think birds help to predict rain, but in a general way frogs often seem to know what is going on. If there is a drought on the way or already started the frogs will be very quiet, but if you hear a lot of frogs there is a good chance it won't be such a bad summer. It has been hot and dry here lately but I am hearing lots of frogs in the dams so I hope there will be a bit of rain in the offing sometime in the next month.

Woko
Woko's picture

To those who hold to the hypothesis that calling Kookaburras herald rain: Out with your pencils & notepads & record what you see & hear. And make sure you have a rain guage handy.

jason

Now now you lot, it's Christmas.  The ancient Gods worked for many, and still do to this day.  

At least the kookas are free, can't say the BOM are that much more accurate and they cost a bomb.  Imagine a job where no matter what you say, or predict, you get paid; then just blame it on the weather.  funny ol world. 

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

divineearthgoddess
divineearthgoddess's picture

Yes Emma, like you I enjoy embracing nature as I observe it. I am not an expert. I've been around for a while, however I have many years ahead of me. My perception may be different to someone elses. I think as I mentioned some time ago, the Kookaburras probably enjoy the worms coming to the surface when it belts down with rain. People may only believe myths if they so choose to. I am interested to hear all stories and experiences. There is no right or wrong way to observe. Wishing rain for those who really need it, also for the birds and insects too. Blessings to all. Safe holidays.  

emma_2
emma_2's picture

Hi divineearthgoddess :) and to you too [prayer hands]

Yes soakes et al you seemed to have not read my post properly: but in the good spirit I'll say it again :)

Kookas chat about a CHANGE OF WEATHER: not any old rainy day, not if it's 'going to rain tomorrow' 

If the weather is going to suddenly get HOTTER, the kookas will have a chat about it

If the weather is going to change to RAIN, the kookas will have a chat about it

That's all, very simple stuff :) 

Merry Christmas all! 

Woko
Woko's picture

Ah, jason, I'm feeling a little abashed. But only a little. I really think that if people have the notion that Kookaburras call prior to rain or any change in the weather then data they produce will either confirm or otherwise that notion.

rawshorty
rawshorty's picture

Woko wrote:

Ah, jason, I'm feeling a little abashed. But only a little. I really think that if people have the notion that Kookaburras call prior to rain or any change in the weather then data they produce will either confirm or otherwise that notion.

Ah Woko,

Everyone knows that our Indigenous folk have studied them long before European folk arrived and the fact is that Kookaburras laugh in the morning  to signal to the sky people to start  the day by lighting the great fire that warms and illuminates the earth.

But on a serious note, my obs say that it is for territorial purposes. When i hear them during the day the call is different and when i watch the bird calling it usually chases another one out of it's territory. I have no proof just what i see. Oh and i have not noticed any change in the weather but will keep my eyes open from now on. 

Shorty......Canon gear

Canberra

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rawshorty/ 

soakes
soakes's picture

Hi Emma.  I assure you I read your post in its entirety and understood it.  I agree with your latest post, but would add that they also have a chat about the weather when it is going to stay much the same.

Jason, you raise a good point.  It is Christmas; the time to celebrate and perpetuate mystical knowledge.

I see no need to add any more to this discussion other than my own observations.  On numerous occasions I have seen kookaburras fly from one tree to another, perhaps 100m away, and then have a cackle.  Other times they fly from tree to tree without cackling afterwards.  This happens at any time of the day and during stable weather conditions.

I will continue to observe with this thread in mind and may post further observations.

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

emma_2
emma_2's picture

Sounds good Soakes :)

Woko
Woko's picture

Yes, I think my observations are very similar to yours, Soakes. But I confess that I haven't recorded my observations so have little understanding of any trends that might be present. No doubt, tho', Kookaburras will be calling before & after Christmas.

Chris 333
Chris 333's picture

All wild animals probably have a basic understanding of the weather.  But why would birds want to ‘talk’ about it? Interesting question.

Why would a kookaburra want to tell other kookaburras that it might rain later if all the other kookaburras would already know that anyway?

What value would the information be? 

They’re hardly going to be saying “Don’t forget to wear your mac if you go out today, Kevin”  or “Go home and get your umbrella Kate, it’s going to piss down this arvo”. They’re not even going to say “Better find a good tree to perch in this afternoon”.  Even stupid humans can tell a few minutes in advance when it’s about to rain, and you only need a few seconds to fly into a tree, fold your wings and ride out the worst of the wet.

The weather might affect availability of food but, again, what’s to say about it if everbody else already has the same knowledge?  Perhaps - “Frogs on special later today lads. Woohoo”?  But birds aren’t particularly altruistic. Sharing isn’t usually much of a driving force, unless there’s a clear gain for the individual. Their behaviour does change at mating/nesting/rearing times but mostly it’s every bird for himself. They will blatantly steal food off other birds if they get the chance. Even close pairs who have been mates for years don’t say “After you dear” unless they’re addressing the dominant bird.  “The pecking order applies here, and it’s completely unsentimental. The moment a bird is injured and can’t defend its position then it drops down the order. You feed your babies until they reach a certain size and then you ignore their pleas for food. There’s no special respect for the elderly either.

I’ve observed a group of extremely well fed chickens pecking at their food, alongside a pair of bronzewing ‘regulars’. All friendly. Until one day a bronzewing panicked, flew repeatedly at the wire mesh and injured a wing. The moment the bird was injured it became prey. A gang of harmless Henny Pennies jumped it and killed it. In less than five minutes the carcase was stripped to the bone and everything edible had been eaten. That’s how the wild world actually works. Unsentimentally.

The biggest problem with using kookaburras as ‘weather prophets’ is that unless you have a total understanding of their calls then you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a weather prediction and another call.   The majority of bird activity spikes at morning and evening but it’s by no means exclusive. They don’t all go home and spend the days watching cricket on TV.  If there’s a need - which usually has to do with territory - then they will let the world know about it.   Is a kookaburra going to stop telling other birds to bugger off just because it might need to reserve that time of day for weather reports? Or stop trying to respond to a lost youngster because some human might think it’s a rain prediction?  I’ve lived on the land for 70 years, 30 of them on this particular patch of bush, and the answer is an emphatic NO!   

Of course, that doesn’t rule out special calls for different reasons. But if anybody here can decode kookaburra calls then I’d be happy to listen out for particular instances. If there are specific calls then let’s try and nail them down accurately instead of guessing. We have a resident family of four kookaburras and any number of others in the valley who drop by from time to time. We don’t feed them but they do forage and nest here. 

But that’s just my opinion. I asked Ken, one of our resident experts on kookaburra behaviour (pictured below). He said:

“Nah mate, we mostly talk about the usual stuff - territory and mating.   If food comes into it, what we mostly say is ‘shove off, this is my patch and my grub’. We call it the three Fs - Fighting, Foraging and Fornicating”. That’s what bird brains think about mate.  From what I hear, humans aren’t that much different are they? “ 

He laughed. “Kakakakakaka….”

“But, look, if you’d like to bribe me with some spare bits of meat, I could introduce you to an octopus who can predict who will win the next world soccer cup. Or a parrot who’s an absolute gun on the stock market.”

And then he laughed again.

 “Kakakakakaka….”

At least I knew what that laugh meant…

emma_2
emma_2's picture

As you said, Chris 333 it's just your opinion; with respect, I don't agree. 

Your assumption even at the start - that the kookaburra is 'telling other kookaburras' - I find flawed. 

It's my opinion that we've learnt enough about animal communication in the last ten years alone to entirely rethink everything we've previously thought about their communication. 

As neither of us can know for sure I think we'll have to agree to disagree :) 

Merry Christmas all!

soakes
soakes's picture

My kookaburras have been surprisingly quiet lately...

(...and FWIW, the weather conditions were mostly stable and sunny during that time, but with one day of a fair amount of rain, followed by more sunshine.)

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

Chris 333
Chris 333's picture

emma_2 wrote:

As you said, Chris 333 it's just your opinion; with respect, I don't agree. 

What are we disagreeing about Emma?

As I said "that doesn’t rule out special calls for different reasons. But if anybody here can decode kookaburra calls then I’d be happy to listen out for particular instances. If there are specific calls then let’s try and nail them down accurately instead of guessing."

If kookaburras make calls about the weather - or any other subject - then if we humans can't distinguish those calls from regular territory or alarm calls then how can they help us predict the weather?  They would need to be a different call.

Can you describe how such calls sound, as opposed to other calls?  As I said above, I'd be happy to listen out for them.  

The kookaburras here certainly make more than  one call. For instance, apart from the familiar 'laughing' ones there's a low gutteral sound that they can make around food.  Does anybody know of a good site for recorded bird calls? 

Cheers,

Chris

Chris 333
Chris 333's picture

emma_2 wrote:

Your assumption even at the start - that the kookaburra is 'telling other kookaburras' - I find flawed. 

It wasn't an assumption - it was a question "Why would a kookaburra want to tell other kookaburras..."

Do you have an answer?  :-)

There's been a great deal of research over the years on bird calls and songs and it's fascinating stuff, but the specifics don't seem to be well understood yet. Here's one summary of some of the work. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_vocalization

Woko's suggestion above, to make a log of calls and compare it with events such as weather, is a good one. It’s probably best done by a team though as we would need hundreds of hours of recordings and observations before trying to make any conclusions.

Is anybody here doing any recording?  After Christmas I might try and see if my recording gear is any good for birds.

Cheers,

Chris

Chris 333
Chris 333's picture

OBSERVATIONS:

Following Woko’s sugestion of taking notes:

YESTERDAY (Wed 29th Dec)

First callers - by a good margin - were the magpies. This is usual here.

Second callers - ravens

Third - black cockatoos

Followed by an assortment of parrots (ring necked and red caps)

Finally - between one and two hours after the magpies first calls - the kookas joined in. Surprisingly late. The kooka calls all appeared to be food related. The juvenile kookas are still requesting a feed (as are various other juvenile birds). I managed to get video footage of a calling and feeding sequence with 3 kookas in frame. Not a snake or lizard, so probably an insect of some kind, although I couldn’t tell what type. 

TODAY (Thurs 30th Dec):

I got home at 3.45 a.m. from a call-out to a paddock fire (fallen power line) and decided to sit outside and listen once the first calls began. As always, the magpies began the day.

4.49 a.m. Magpies begin calling. Multiple magpies join in.

4.58 - ravens, closely followed by black cockatoos (probably more than a kilometre away at this stage).

4.59 - A single short kookaburra call from a tree close to the house.  Not the well known ‘kakakaka’ territory call but similar (or identical?) to the food calls I’ve been hearing a lot recently.

5.00 Ring necked and red capped parrots heard calling and seen flying near the house.

At this time of year the breaking dawn is well advanced by 5.00 but no sunlight has hit the treetops, either on our block or at the top of the ridge across the valley (who get it first).

5.30 First sunlight starts hitting higher spots across the valley. In less than 5 minutes the tops of our highest trees are also getting a sight of the sun.

5.44  I can finally stand on the verandah and see the rising sun. 

6.17 The black cockatoos flew directly over the house.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS:

The local kookaburras seem not to have read the book of myths. They don’t wake the bush up - that seems to be the magpies’ job here. The kookas here also don’t usually call either at break of dawn or first light on their trees.  

A few months back when the nesting/mating season began I heard a lot of strident Kakakakaka style territory calls, sometimes very loudly, from multiple kookaburras.  However, those calls reduced noticeably once the deals were done.  

All the calls I’ve heard recently are a different call (less strident and without the harsh kakaka part that is so distinctive in the familar kooka call).  When I have been able to observe the birds the calls all seem related to food requests.

I suspect that kookaburra calling behaviour would vary considerable depending on the time of year, but also depending on what part of the country they live in and possibly also what the mix of other local birds is. Perhaps some  “Myths” that are simply not true at all in some parts of the country may be more accurate in others? 

No correlation noticed between calls and weather. But I’m more than happy to listen out if anybody can describe what I’d be hearing. My audio recording equpment and video cam have both proved adequate for recording calls.

Cheers,

Chris

Chris 333
Chris 333's picture

The baby below (taken in mid November) didn’t seem too bright and just sat there for an hour or so looking bewildered. However, its ‘twin’ was sitting on a telephone wire and was able to fly capably so this guy was probably just having a good long think before tackling the next big decision.   :-)

Six weeks later, I could no longer tell which were the new kids in the photo.

The main local pair had two young this year but there are also two others which will join in to form an extended group of six.  Apparently the ‘extras’ may be relations from previous years, but I can’t tell them apart. 

Five of them lined up for a seasonal family shot on Christmas Day.

Pages

 and @UrbanBirdsOz  @birdsinbackyards
                 Subscribe to me on YouTube