Remembering Cookie – A Kookaburra With Leucism

We have always seen kookaburras around where we live, sometimes sitting in the gum trees, occasionally flying overhead, and we almost always hear them at sunrise and sunset. But late 2012 was the first time an entire kookaburra family came to visit.

There was mum, dad, and three babies, and one of those babies was a kookaburra we got to know very well so we named him Cookie. (We could never tell if the kookaburras were male or female, so we just referred to them all as a “he” to make things easier. 🙂 )

Cookie first appeared on 22 December 2012 as a very young kookaburra not long out of the nest. I took this video of Cookie on 23 December 2012.

The kookaburra family seemed to live somewhere west of our house as that was the direction they flew off in at the end of the day. Usually they dropped in for a visit in the early morning or late afternoon, and occasionally received a handout of meat from us.

Cookie got up to all kinds of things when he was young and was an intriguing bird to watch. In the video below taken on 26 December 2012 and filmed looking down from the veranda, you can see him playing with a piece of grass or perhaps a praying mantis, playing with a stick, and stabbing his beak into the sandy pile of dirt.

In February 2013, Cookie had been out of the nest for about 2 months and had grown up. He was as big as his parents and his colouring had lightened considerably since he was a baby. It was at this time that I determined after an extensive internet search, that Cookie had leucism. The photo below was taken 26 February 2013.

Leucism is a condition where there is partial loss of pigmentation and gives the bird much paler plumage colours than is typical for that species. The eye isn’t affected so it’s easy to tell the difference between albinism and leucism.  An albino bird is completely white with pink eyes, while a leucistic bird has lighter coloured plumage and has normal coloured eyes. Take a good look at Cookie’s colours and compare them with the other kookaburras, they are noticeably different. The photo below was taken 26 February 2013.

Cookie visited us almost everyday, with and without his parents, happy to take an occasional snack of meat from us. We often found him on the veranda and he was never scared of either of us approaching him.

Then in December 2013 the kookaburra family grew again as Cookie’s parents had another two babies. As happens in the kookaburra world, Cookie and his siblings hung around to help their parents bring up the new babies. From my observations, Cookie did most of this work while his siblings watched on, seemingly not bothered to help out themselves.

In the photo below you can see Cookie on the far left, one of the parents in the middle, and a baby kookaburra on the far right. This was taken 1 December 2013.

In this next photo, you can see from left to right: baby, Cookie, baby, parent. The photo was taken 8 December 2013.

Here is Cookie feeding one of the new babies with a bit of meat handout from us. This video was taken 8 December 2013.

And this photo of Cookie with a lizard he caught in our backyard shows what a good provider he is. (Photo taken 14 December 2013)

And Cookie could laugh with the best of them too as you can see in the video below. The video was taken 1 December 2013.

All too soon, the new babies had grown up and we noticed that none of Cookie’s siblings seemed to visit anymore. His parents came to drop in once in awhile, but Cookie became a regular. The next two photos were taken 9 November 2013. Notice how much lighter his feather colouring is now compared to when he was a baby.

And so it continued throughout 2014, Cookie visiting almost like clockwork. Towards the end of that year, Cookie would have been about 2 years old. He visited almost every afternoon or early morning, and his parents were still seen on occasion.

Then around October 2014, I noticed that Cookie was flying in from a different direction, and he was leaving in a different direction too. He headed easterly off to the neighbour’s place and perched in a gum tree, but after a short break, he continued flying in a southerly direction out of sight.

This is my final video of Cookie taken on 3 November 2014, although at the time I didn’t know it would be my last one.

In December 2014, I noticed that the length of time between Cookie’s visits became longer and longer. Every morning and afternoon I would scan the trees around for any sight of him, but nothing. And then he stopped coming altogether.

And that was that.

Or so we thought!

Just before Christmas in 2016, almost 2 years after we last saw Cookie, my husband saw him early in the morning on his way to work, sitting on a telegraph wire in the next street down (south from us). I wish I had been able to see him too. It was wonderful to hear that Cookie is safe and well, and has survived to at least being 4 years old. Now, everytime I head south from our place, I’m on the lookout for Cookie.

 

 

14 thoughts on “Remembering Cookie – A Kookaburra With Leucism

  1. Thanks for detailed write up. Nice story.
    Just FYI, I saw two Kookaburras with Leucism near Shellharbour NSW this week. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Oh my gosh, Sue, I love this post and I love Cookie too! I very much enjoyed your videos and Cookie’s uniqueness. I truly hope you see him again sometime soon. When we bond with nature on a daily basis, it’s as if they become part of our family. 🙂

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  3. Hallo Sue
    What a lovely story about a lovely bird! It’s so cool that these birds and other creatures live their lives around us, interacting with us when they want to, and going their own way when they want to too.
    Cheers
    Sarah

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    1. Thanks Sarah. It was wonderful having Cookie around for so long and I think it just goes to show that we humans can have a relationship with wildlife without ruining their lives.

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  4. We have a special Kookaburra we also name Kookie (spelled with a K for us). Our Kookie seems to have had no tail since we have known her. We sometimes see a small feather or two sprout, but they always seem to fall out. We call Kookie ‘she’ because she seems to have a mate. Kookie sat in the hollow and her mate on the branch outside, so I guess she is female. However, despite trying two years in a row, still no young Kookaburra chicks. I’m not sure what the problem is, but it would be lovely to have baby Kookaburras one day. You are very fortunate to have seen so many! 🙂 Lisa

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      1. Nice photos of the kookie without tail feathers. Makes you wonder if they were always like that or something happened to them. In any case it mustn’t be too bad for the bird if they can fly well enough and have survived this long, and even found a mate.

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    1. Hi Lisa, nice to hear another person has a special kookie in their lives too. Hopefully in the future your pair of kookies will have babies. The chicks are lovely to see even if they are quite noisy! 🙂

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