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Fr: martin-chasseur à ailes bleues
All : Haubenliest
Esp: Cucaburra Aliazul
Ital: Kookaburra aliazzurre
Nd: Blauwvleugelkookaburra
Sd: Blåvingad kookaburra


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Blue-winged Kookaburra
Dacilo leachii

Coraciiforme Order – Alcedinidae Family

Length: 38-41 cm
Weight: M: 250-322 g – F: 260-370 g

The Blue-winged Kookaburra belongs to the subfamily “halcyininae”, the largest and the most diverse with 59 species, among them the four kookaburras of genus Dacelo.  

The Blue-winged Kookaburra is a large kingfisher. The adult of nominate race has grey-brown mantle and scapulars. Rump and uppertail-coverts are pale blue. The tail is darker blue with outer rectrices barred dark blue and white. The upperwing is mostly blue, from pale blue on upperwing coverts, to blackish-blue on flight feathers.

The underparts are white with fine buffy-grey vermiculations.
The head is creamy-white with faint dark brown streaks.
The bill is heavy and large, with blackish upper mandible and pale yellowish lower mandible, the latter with small dark triangular patch at base. The eyes are white to pale yellow. Legs and feet are pale flesh.

The female is almost similar except the rufous tail and uppertail-coverts. The rufous rectrices are barred blackish-blue. She is larger and heavier than male.

The juvenile resembles female but it has paler crown. On the underparts, the breast feathers are edged buffy-brown.

We can find four subspecies:
D.i. intermedia is found in S and SE New Guinea. This race is larger and darker on the upperparts. The head is strongly streaked. The back is black and the underparts are uniformly white. The upper mandible is darker.
D.i. cervina occurs on Melville Is. This one is smaller, darker above and below with buffy breast.   
D.i. leachii (here described and displayed) is found throughout N Australia, E to Cape York Peninsula, S to Broome in W and to Brisbane in E.
D.i. occidentalis occurs in Hamersley and Pilbara Regions of W Australia. This race has whiter head and buff-washed underparts.

The Blue-winged Kookaburra is very vocal. It often performs loud chorus at dawn and dusk, involving several birds calling in turn. The birds give repeated “bark calls” as introduction. Then, male and female engage in duet with several calls, yelps and cackles. A second duet includes different elements such as hoarse “screech call” ending abruptly with cackle or sometimes extending into another duet.
When in groups, the birds give short “kuck” as contact call, and short laugh “aa-aah-oo-oo” giving the bird location.   
Other sounds indicate distinctive intentions. A soft squawk is given by a bird while taking off. A soft, high-pitched piping is uttered prior to feed the young.  A soft rolling “o-o-o-o” is related to copulation. A short, high-pitched “aah” is an alarm call when a predator is approaching.   

The Blue-winged Kookaburra frequents tropical and subtropical open woodlands, savanna woodlands and Eucalyptus, timbers along streams, mangrove and swamps, clearings and farmlands with strands of trees, large suburban parks and gardens. It usually avoids dense understorey.
This species is visible in lowlands in New Guinea, but locally up to 600 metres of elevation.

See above in “subspecies”

The Blue-winged Kookaburra feeds on wide variety of animal food. It takes mainly invertebrates such as large insects, insect larvae, spiders, scorpions, crustaceans, snails and earthworms. But it also feeds on small vertebrates such as fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, small birds and eggs and small mammals.

It hunts from perch, usually branches, fences or wires, between 2 and 4 metres above the ground and from which it watches for preys. When the prey is detected, it dives down and catches it on the ground, and then, it returns to its perch. But it may also beat the prey on the ground before to swallow it. The larger preys are beaten repeatedly and snakes are swallowed head first.
The Blue-winged Kookaburra may take preys from treetrunks, twigs and leaves, and make shallow dives into water for fish. The large bill allows the bird to dig in soft soil for earthworms.

By night, they roost on horizontal branches in tall trees, among the canopy foliage. These perches are much higher than the hunting perches used by day for hunting.  
They arrive at roost around the time of dusk chorus, and leave at dawn, again during or after morning chorus.
In pairs, mates roost within one metre of each other, while helpers roost nearby or in adjacent tree.

During the breeding season, most of breeding pairs have one or more helpers, often males. They take part in all activities such as to prepare the nest, to feed the breeding female prior to laying and during incubation, and to feed the chicks. They also assist in territorial defence.

They establish the territory and defend it, often giving loud calls and performing aerial chases. Courtship-feeding from male to female is reported. Then, male and female fly together and prospect for nest-site, landing and looking inside before to start excavating into termitarium or higher, in arboreal one, according to termite’s species. It may also nest in unlined tree hole. Copulation occurs usually at roost, around the chorus time.  

The Blue-winged Kookaburra is usually sedentary, with numerous adults remaining at least five years in the same territory. But young often disperse, and local seasonal movements are reported.

The Blue-winged Kookaburra has direct and fast flight, performed with powerful wingbeats.

The breeding season occurs between September and January.
The Blue-winged Kookaburra is monogamous, but the pair has helpers, usually 3 but up to 12 sometimes, and often males, offspring of the previous years, between 1 and 4 years old. They take part in most nesting duties.
The species nests in tree hole or excavates a tunnel into termitarium in tree or on the ground. The entrance is about 11 x 13 cm in size, and the tunnel is about 65-70 cm long.

The female lays 2-3 eggs and incubates at night. During the day, both adults and helpers share the incubation during 25-26 days. At hatching, the chicks are naked and blind. They are fed by parents and helpers. They fledge 35-36 days after hatching. They still depend on parents for two months more.

The Blue-winged Kookaburra feeds on large insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, mantids, beetles, bugs, cicadas and many others, insect larvae, spiders, scorpions, crustaceans, snails and earthworms. Small vertebrates such as fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, small birds and small mammals are also taken. It hunts from perches.

The Blue-winged Kookaburra is fairly common to abundant according to the range. Clearance of woodlands and forests for agriculture expansion could become a threat by destroying suitable habitats, although in New Guinea, the species has extended its range thanks to forest clearance.
The populations of the Blue-winged Kookaburra are not currently threatened.