Australian bush

Five Fun Facts About Kookaburras

Last week I wrote 5 Fun Facts about Emus, as Emma the Eager Emu was the star of the first book launch last Saturday morning. This week, with one more book launch to go on Friday night, it is Kelly the Kookaburra's turn to share some fascinating key facts about herself. In last weeks post I mentioned that  emus like to steal food from unsuspecting picnickers and campers, which leads me to my first fascinating fact about kookaburras.DSCN0249

1. Did you know that Kookaburras are the largest member of the Kingfisher family? So you would expect them to eat fish, but they don't. Kookaburras much prefer worms, insects, mice and even snakes and lizards. They particularly  like to dive from high in a nearby gum tree and swoop down to steal a sausage or two from your BBQ. (Maybe the sausages look a bit like a snake or lizard sizzling on the hot plate). Kookaburras don't need to drink as they get all the water they need from their food.

2. Kookaburras live in native bushland all over Australia but also among our many coastal towns and cities. It is easy to see them regularly around your backyard especially if you frequently feed them a bit of raw mince meat by leaving the meat out in a bird feeder or on your verandah railing. They will get rather demanding though so don't start this habit unless you are prepared to do it everyday. Note: Like most native wild birds it is best to let Kookaburras find their own food, not become reliant on people.

3. All throughout the Australian Bush you can hear kookaburras call out in the early morning or towards the evening. Their unusual call sounds more like a great big belly laugh as if something has really amused them, but they are not really laughing at all, they are actually telling other kookaburras that this is their territory.

4. Kookaburras live in families just like us. They mate for life and raise a family together, with the older siblings helping to raise the younger babies. Chicks are born blind and with absolutely no feathers which take a month to grow. (No wonder they need help from their older brothers and sisters.)

5. Most people see the common kookaburra around their homes, however further north and close to the coast is also the blue winged kookaburra aptly named for the colour in its wings. They are both 47 cm (18.5 inches) long and weigh about 0.5 kg (1 lb), interestingly that means a kookaburra weighs about as much as an emus egg!

Here is a link to a video you can watch and hear a kookaburra laugh.

Laughing Kookaburra call

Added Bonus

"Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree" is a well known old song that was taught as a round to kids in schools all over Australia for many years. Below is a link to a version of the original song being played in a round and a second link to the words of all the verses of the song (with a few extras that have been added over the years).

Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree song

The words to Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree.

Beware of Drop-Bears! A Short Story

As Aussie kids we all grew up hearing tales of the mythological creature the "Drop-Bear." A mysterious and ferocious man-eating koala that would drop from the top of gum trees to attack unsuspecting bushwalkers. We tell the story to overseas tourists as they embark all excited on hikes through our countryside and warn them that their only form of protection is vegemite smeared behind their ears. Vegemite being that all Australian favourite spread that we have on toast for breakfast that only a true Aussie can appreciate the taste of. With my new book "Alien Shenanigans,"due to be released next month, I wrote a short story with our reluctant hero David Bradberrie and his brothers, Brian and Simon. I put them camping in the bush one night just to see what might happen?

Below is the result. Hope you enjoy. :)

"Beware the Drop-Bear" was awarded First Place in the We Write For Kids Contest - Mar 2015.

Beware the Drop-Bear!

Drop bear signDavid yawned, reached for the roll of loo paper, the small shovel and torch, turned from the campfire and headed towards the line of gum trees not too far in the distance. He hadn’t walked far when his younger brother Simon, called out.

“Beware the drop-bear!’

David stopped in his tracks. He really needed to go. Was Simon teasing or should he ask what he meant? David chewed a fingernail, inhaled a deep breath and shuffled back towards the warmth and light of the fire. With a huff he sat back down beside his brothers.

“Need some company?” Brian, his older brother sniggered.

“I'm ten Brian, I can go to the loo on my own! I don't intend to go too far into the bush. Just tell me about the drop-bear before I go anywhere,” David glared at Simon. “Make it quick though, I really need to go.” David squirmed on the log where he sat. Brian handed him a stick with a toasted marshmallow and winked at Simon.

“Haven’t you heard of drop-bears? They’re kind of like giant koalas but scary man eating ones that drop down from the top of gum trees at night and attack when you least expect it.” Simon’s eyes popped as he raised his hands to gnash at the air. “People say they have really sharp fang-like teeth and razor sharp claws.”

“Best to spread some vegemite behind your ears before you go. Drop-bears don’t like vegemite.” Brian added.

Simon and Brian rolled on the ground laughing as David took a deep breath and crept back towards the trees, torchlight shining as wide as he could high into the treetops. He wasn’t prepared to walk quite as far in amongst the gum trees as he would have preferred, nor was he going to give them the satisfaction of needing Brian to go with him. The further in David crept, the darker it became. Privacy was optimal, but then again so was safety.

He chose a spot, left the torch shining upwards against a tree so that he could see above into the branches and began to dig his hole. He whistled a tune to try to calm his nerves.

When David reached to retrieve his torch it was no longer where he had left it. Light still lit the area, so where was the torch? He scanned the ground around the bottom of the tree but then realised the light was coming from above him. The tree branches swayed but there was no wind. He heard a scratching, clawing noise along with a low growl. David stepped back careful to watch where he trod and slowly raised his eyes to peer high into the branches. Sure enough a furry koala-like monster with pointed fang-like teeth sat huddled near the tree trunk and grasped within its jagged sharp claws was David’s torch.

The monsters beady eyes stared down at David with a ferocious glare. They seemed to glow in the torchlight as the monster shivered and made a loud groan that sounded to David like the noise came from deep within the pit of the monsters stomach.

David reached for the shovel and went to run but something made him stop and turn around for another look. The monster cuddled the torch as it spread a glow around the bush. The growl had changed to more like a hum.

David wasn't sure, but he thought he could see a hint of a tear trickle out of the corner of one of the monsters eyes.

“You don’t look so scary.” David took a step closer. “You do look a bit bigger than a normal koala and those claws do look awful sharp, but you don’t look like you wanna hurt me. Do you?” David reached out a hand to try to encourage the monster koala to climb down. There seemed to be an eternal pause while the monster stared at David. It refused to move.

David placed the shovel back on the ground at his feet. "See, I'm not gonna hurt you. It's ok to come down." He held his breath and glanced at the shovel to make sure he could grab it if he needed to.

The drop-bear didn’t drop on David’s head, instead it simply climbed down the trunk of the gum tree and stood to stare at David. “Can I have my torch back?” David asked as he tried to reach for the torch. The drop-bear shook its head and held the torch high and tight away from David.

“Are you afraid of the dark? Is that it?” David crouched and tried to reach for the bears paw. It nodded and cradled the torch close to its chest.“Would you like to come and sit by our fire where there's more light?” David continued to hold out his hand and took another deep breath. The creature blinked but refused to move. “You don’t want to hurt me,” David crossed his fingers behind his back. “And I promise not to hurt you. We’re all afraid of the dark sometimes, in fact I admit I don’t like it much myself. That’s why it’s good to have family and friends to keep you company.” David gave the monster a hesitant smile. He hoped the creature felt safe to join him. Again it didn't answer, or move.

“Ok then. “ David stretched and slowly turned away. “Tell you what, I’m going to walk back to camp now. If you like you can follow.” David took a few cautious steps forward.

He smiled as the torchlight began to follow all the way back behind him.

When David made it back to the campfire he sat on the log without a word. A little monster sat beside him and snuggled close.

Brian and Simon’s jaws both dropped. They jumped up and moved to the other side of the fire.

“Who’s afraid of drop-bears now? Have you got your jar of vegemite?” David laughed. “He’s just a bit scared of the dark that’s all." David reached for the stick he had used earlier and placed two marshmallows on the end of it. Happy to have made friends with a creature just as scared of the dark as himself he leaned forward to point the stick into the fire until they were both toasted nicely. He smiled at the drop bear beside him and handed him a toasted marshmallow.