Young kookaburras are learning to laugh - and making a not-so-pleasant racket in the process.
These youngsters hatched in late spring, and are now experiencing life in company with their parents and other adults of their group. Their vocal efforts start as an almost continuous rasping begging call in their nest hollow. Once they fledge - four or five weeks after hatching - they continue their begging, but this is louder, hoarser, wheezier and more interrupted, and sometimes interspersed with brief bouts of attempted laughing.
The "learning-to-laugh" calls - starting with just the one note - continue for many weeks, but eventually the laughs of youngsters and adults are the same.It has been said that young kookaburras need to be taught to laugh. While this may be so, it is more likely that their voices change simply as a result of growing up.
The popular kookaburra chorus is given by several birds, and is probably an advertising territorial call. It is heard especially at dawn and dusk, but can occur at any time of day.
Families seem to keep in touch - or perhaps reinforce bonds - with this main call. This full-throated boisterous laugh is at its best when three or more kookaburras participate. If a lone kookaburra starts this laughing call, others in its group will usually join in.
This laugh starts with a chuckle, then rises in intensity to loud laughing "ha-ha-ha" notes before dying away with a chuckle.
Sometimes the laughing is extended. It can cease abruptly or fade away. There are other calls as well, with seven main calls recognised.
A chuckling call thought to be used to locate missing family members, while a low, slightly gargling "koo-aaa" call is a warning to other kookaburras nearby.
An average kookaburra lifespan is 12 - 15 years. They seldom breed before they are four, and they pair for life.
Common mynas - also known as Indian mynas - are gradually increasing in the Ballarat district, especially north and north-west of Ballarat.
The first Learmonth report less than three years ago has now been followed up by a sighting of a nest with two well-grown youngsters. The nest is in a hollow branch in a eucalypt.
A nest with chicks in February is rather a surprise, given that the expected nesting time would be earlier.
Although no earlier nesting was likely at Learmonth, mynas elsewhere are known to sometimes have two broods per year. Their stated breeding season is October to March. Mynas have just been reported at Grenville for the first time.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
We hope you can identify this snake. He was at our house last year also.
This is a white-lipped snake, a small slender snake usually found in forested places. Average length of adults is only 350mm.
The white-lipped snake feeds mostly on small skinks, which are abundant at this time of the year.
Many snake species are territorial, living in the same places year after year, so your recent specimen is quite likely to be the same one you saw last summer.
White-lipped snakes are venomous but, because of their small size, regarded as unlikely to harm a healthy adult.
Most local specimens are the red-brown colour, but they can be greyer. They are shy, so you were fortunate to get the photos you sent.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org