Kookaburra call's a sign of rain?

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Woko
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Keep those entertaining notes on your observations coming, Chris. It'll be interesting to learn of any developing picture of a relationship between Kookaburra calls & rain events.

Chris 333
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I’m mostly interested in studying our magpies, who have an intriguingly large range of vocalisations and fascinating behaviours, both as individuals and as a group. But I’m happy to keep eyes and ears out for interesting kookaburra behaviours.

Yesterday afternoon I spent about half an hour outside with a video camera watching the period when the direct sunlight gradually gives way to dusk and the sun finally disappears below the horizon. There was a single kookaburra visible during the whole time.  I didn’t see the other five but I would almost certainly have been able to hear them if they had called. None of them took the opportunity to herald the setting sun.  Other birds were still moving around and making noises.  

I was able to film a galah shooing off a brown bandicoot when both were foraging in the same area, a juvenile magpie playing by swinging on a rope on a kids’ play gym, a juvenile red capped parrot waiting for a drink and being put in line by a magpie, ring necked parrots drinking, and various other activities.  But no chat or calls from the kookaburras.

I’d be equally happy to help either prove or disprove theories about bird behaviours (including kookaburras or any other birds’ ability as weather prophets) but I’m not going to swallow unreliable old folk tales without accurate supporting evidence.

One problem with folk tales and legends is that they often date from times when literacy was not common. So they’re easily remembered ‘Wisdom Lite’ - short sayings that are not necessarily useless but sometimes have little depth, or only apply in certain circumstances.  For example, I remember being told “He who hesitates is lost” - which sounds reasonable - don’t delay, jump right in or you’ll miss the opportunity.  But the companion saying - “Look before you leap” - means the exact opposite - be cautious and spend time evaluating before you act!  So you usually need a wider context than just a short saying if it’s to be of any use. :-)  

Some beliefs that were once widely held are no longer believed, despite being lovely stories - e.g. the legend that kookaburras called to wake the sky people every morning and reminded them to light the fire of the sun.  Or the widely held belief that the earth was flat, or that the sun orbits round the earth, and so on.  Knowledge and cultures move on. Kookaburra weather prediction claims might have had some basis but they may well be either incomplete, or only apply to particular locations or times of year, or just be wrong. So it would be good to update them with more accurate information. 

In the meantime, here are some still shots all taken from last evening’s video. :-)

The young magpie was alternately swinging on the end of the single rope and climbing up another rope (which holds up a swing made from an old tyre).  Two other magpies and the kookaburra were largely ignoring the performance. The pics are not high quality, being screen shots taken off the videos.

Woko
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Looks like a lovely part of the world, Chris. One of those "Why would you want to live anywhere else?"

And rest assured, Earth became a little rounder with the recent change of prime ministers. 

divineearthgoddess
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I don't hear the Kookaburra here every day.  That is what is interesting.  They don't call in the morning and the evening as a rule.  They kakka here at different times.  I will make note of any calls, behaviour and weather accordingly.  It really needs focus and dedication to record.  We have Galahs who usually wake us first here in the big Scribbly Gum Tree.  We have had many years of Crows nesting in our trees, along with other species.  One year we were introduced to this huge, gawky weird bird and we couldn't figure out what it was, or why such a big bird was squaking so much.  We found out that Cookoos are migratory birds and will leave an egg in the Crows nest, by replacing their egg with one of the Crows.  So intriguing to see the Crow exhaust itself with the 'back and forth' tiresome task of fulfilling the needs of the hungry big baby.  No Cookoo this year.  We usually have one here about every 2nd year.  For all the Crow 'haters' the unconditional love the Crow shows for the Cookoo (a bit like the 'Ugly Duckling, is amazing).  Happy New Year to all.

divineearthgoddess
divineearthgoddess's picture

Thanks Chris for the photos and your research.  We were running some water down to the slow producing Mangoe Tree and the Magpies decided to use the soaked area as a day spa.  They were having a great old time, squaking and hopping around, fluffing up their feathers and drinking and eating whatever was coming up to the surface of the lawn.

Chris 333
Chris 333's picture

Woko wrote:

And rest assured, Earth became a little rounder with the recent change of prime ministers. 

Haha. Beautifully put. :-)

Interesting morning here.  No kookaburra calls early, just the usual magpies, ravens, parrots, etc.   The first kookaburra calls were after six and some distance away. They sounded like the requests for food that I’ve been hearing the some weeks now.  I didn’t notice anything special yesterday.

However, there was a big flurry of activity around 6.20 am today when the gang appeared and began calling again. I saw a couple actually being fed but, as usual, I couldn't tell what they were getting as it was small stuff.  Presumably more insects.   

There's a definite chance of rain, there’s dark cluds all around and I can hear thunder as I type. No rain here for weeks but, although the clouds are clearly rain-bearing none has actually fallen here yet.  According to the radar, rain is pelting down - but a few kilometres or so away from here.

Here’s the magpies on NewYear’s Eve. One of the kookaburra makes an apperance at the end.

https://youtu.be/fHjoAfyZybA

Cheers,

Chris.

Chris 333
Chris 333's picture

divineearthgoddess wrote:

Thanks Chris for the photos and your research.  We were running some water down to the slow producing Mangoe Tree and the Magpies decided to use the soaked area as a day spa.  They were having a great old time, squaking and hopping around, fluffing up their feathers and drinking and eating whatever was coming up to the surface of the lawn.

Magpies are a real delight aren’t they DEG. :-)  

We have a pair of ‘crows’ (Ravens) here and they’re striking looking and smart birds. Some years back we had a family of three living locally and the youngest one unfortunately got killed. The parents ‘mourned’ loudly for hours and hours afterwards. It’s probably not a good idea to compare bird behaviour directly to humans, and read too much into it, but they stayed nearby and called all afternoon.  After that they were a lot more wary and less visible than before.  As you said above, very dedicated parents.

Chris 333
Chris 333's picture

UPDATE:

Around 7.15 am it finally rained!  The kookaburras had been calling from 6.20 onward, but as far as I could tell it was the same kookaburra carry-on that we’ve been getting regularly lately. There was still some sporadic calling from the kookaburras when the rain began.  When it did rain it didn’t change their behaviour in any noticeable way, and they didn’t appear to be bothered by it. Life just went on in the same way, only rather wetter. :-)

At this stage I can’t hear or see any obvious difference between their regular style of calling at this time of year, or the times they do it.  I have recorded them on an audio recorder, filmed them on video and watched and listened a lot more carefully to them than usual.  The most likely time to currently hear them calling is ‘breakfast time’. Say around six or seven, but there’s no precise pattern or times.  Yesterday was a  quiet day for kookas and I didn’t notice anything unusual.

 It’s been great to watch them, but I still don’t think our local group care one way or another about the weather, they just cope with whatever comes along. All I can say so far is that they are currently no use to me as weather prophets, in this particular location. :-)

This video is a bit rough but it’s from 6.20 am this morning (Sat 2nd Jan) through to 7.25 or so, squeezed into 2 minutes.  

We don’t put out food for the kookas but they seem to like perching on the old playground and keeping an eye on the ground below (which the magpies also forage). 

https://youtu.be/Henk-i2U3H8

Cheers,

Chris

Woko
Woko's picture

A real joy to watch & listen to, Chris, including the raindrops on the roof & the ground, something we don't get much of at the moment here in SA. Thanks for the reminder!

soakes
soakes's picture

I woke up before any birds this morning :-( 

At about 5am I heard a kookaburra start up in the distance.  It was so far away it would probably not have woken me up.  I guess that's why I have ot heard them lately; they have moved away for some reason.  Although I still see them occasionally during the day, I rarely hear them.  This is in Olinda, Vic where there are large eucalyptus forests.

I guess they are more active in Spring.

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

Woko
Woko's picture

Here on the s.e. slopes of the Mt Lofty Ranges in SA the Kookaburras have headed for the hills by about mid spring. It's cooler there so they don't have to run the air conditioner as much. Also, the moister conditions there support a higher abundance of food for them. That's my latest theory, anyway.

emma_2
emma_2's picture

I was drifting off to sleep at 10:30PM last night, the rain was gently pattering on the tin roof.

Then it subsided. 

Guess who gave a bird call at that odd hour? 

A local kookaburra. 

soakes
soakes's picture

He probably realised he was late to predict the rain :-D

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

Chris 333
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soakes wrote:

He probably realised he was late to predict the rain :-D

Maybe he/she was just getting in early for any possible showers later in the month?  :-)

Chris 333
Chris 333's picture

emma_2 wrote:

I was drifting off to sleep at 10:30PM last night, the rain was gently pattering on the tin roof.

Then it subsided. 

Guess who gave a bird call at that odd hour? 

A local kookaburra. 

I know it's a hard question, but can you describe the call at all? Did it sound any different to any other kookaburra calls that you hear?

Night calls are not unusual. In the week since Christmas I've heard kookaburra calls both before 4.a.m. and after 8 p.m.  It was fully dark at those times. I've also heard a number of other birds - such as black cockatoos - occasionally calling well after what I'd think of as their bedtime.  And of course, depending on the time of year, magpies can regularly call/warble at any time of the night.  

So far I can only pick three different kooka calls - the well known territory call and a couple that are food related (probably just a juvenile version and an adult one). The maggies seem to have much bigger range.

Cheers,

Chris

divineearthgoddess
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Hi Emma and All,

I have noticed that the Kookaburra's call late at night during rain also.  It must have been in about 2010 or 2011 when we had the big rains then floods here in Qld. that we heard the Kookaburra's in the camping ground in January.  The camping ground we stayed in was on North Stradbroke Island.  We had bucket loads of rain and the Kookaburra's would do little short cackles during the night.  We also would see them resting outside the camp amenities block, say on a bench seat and cackle.  We were camped very close to the action.

GregL
GregL's picture

We have a few kookaburras here and have had a fairly wet summer, can't say I have noticed any difference in their calls. You would have to be listening pretty close and have a good memory to use them for predicting rain. I think frogs are much better for predicting a wet season, the frogs have been much more noisy than usual this year, usually they go dormant in the hot dry times of late summer/autumn.

gypsybob2003
gypsybob2003's picture

Kookaburras callingt at daybreak and sunset are only establishing their territories, however calling in the middle of the day indicates forthcoming rain 

soakes
soakes's picture

...or other weather condition

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

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