Spangled Kookaburra Dacelo tyro Scientific name definitions

P. F. Woodall and Guy M. Kirwan
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated October 16, 2019

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Editor's Note: This is a shorter format account, originally published in HBW Alive. Please consider contributing your expertise to update and expand this account.


33 cm; male 128–145 g, female 148–165 g. Male of nominate race has head, hindneck and mantle yellow-buff with black margins to feathers, back and scapulars black, rump and uppertail-coverts bright cobalt-blue; tail and wings blue-black, lesser and median wing-coverts edged with bright blue; chin and throat white, rest of underparts washed buff to pale orange; upper mandible black, lower mandible pale horn; iris dark brown; legs and feet grey to yellowish grey. Distinguished from D. leachii by smaller size, darker head and back, lack of white tip to tail (1), as well as dark eye. Female like male, but blue markings duller and with greenish tinge. Juvenile has head duskier, throat and breast with narrow black margins, and has more obvious black on mantle (1). Race <em>archboldi</em> has paler blue wing-coverts , and mainly white underparts , with buff undertail-coverts and (sometimes) throat (1).

Systematics History

Editor's Note: This article requires further editing work to merge existing content into the appropriate Subspecies sections. Please bear with us while this update takes place.

Has been placed in Melidora, but seems much closer to other Dacelo. In the past was sometimes placed in monotypic genus Capricia, or in Sauromarptis along with D. gaudichaud; possibly derived from an ancestor of latter on Aru Is which subsequently reinvaded adjacent mainland. Two subspecies recognized.



Dacelo tyro archboldi Scientific name definitions

SC New Guinea from Bian R and Habé I to Mai Kussa R.


Dacelo tyro tyro Scientific name definitions

Aru Is.


Editor's Note: Additional distribution information for this taxon can be found in the 'Subspecies' article above. In the future we will develop a range-wide distribution article.


Well-wooded dry savanna, thickets of Dillenea alata at swamp margins, and mo­saics of monsoon forest, thickets and Mela­leuca savanna woodland, also dense monsoon and riverine forest, and found mainly in primary growth on Aru Is (2). Frequents mostly the understorey, but on Aru Is usually observed in canopy, with D. gaudichaud inhabiting the lower strata (2).


Presumed to be sedentary.

Diet and Foraging

Insects, including beetles (Coleoptera), ants and winged ants (Formi­ci­dae), and stick-insects (Phasmida). Forages from perch 1–4 m high, with a clear view; patiently scans ground below, then makes a shallow flight down, catching prey in its bill, before flying on to another perch. Also flutters around large trees, catching winged ants in the air and amongst the foliage.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Pairs often duet (2). Series of loud, throaty “kurk” notes, similar to those of D. leachii, and has been reported calling in unison with that species. Also fairly similar to vocalization of sympatric D. gaudichaud, but call of present species is monotonous series of identical, short, dry coughs or dog-like barks, each note and whole series at constant pitch, whereas that D. gaudichaud is series of longer, less staccato barks, each note often trilled or upslurred, and whole series descending in pitch; and rate of delivery faster in D. tyro (c. 10 notes per six seconds, versus six notes per six seconds for D. gaudichaud) (2).


Females in breeding condition and about to lay collected in Mar; nests with young found in Mar. Nest excavated in hemispherical termitarium; two nests were 5 m above ground, in termitaria 45 cm and 60 cm in diameter, one on Alstonia scholaris and other on Acacia mangium; unconfirmed reports of nesting in tree-holes. No information on clutch size, or on incubation and fledging periods. Observed in groups of up to five birds, perhaps family parties (1).

Not globally threatened. Restricted-range species: present in Trans-Fly EBA. Reported to be common in suitable habitat on the mainland; occurs in Wasur National Park, Irian Jaya. No reports since 1988 from Aru Is, but at that time common and widespread there, although absent from outlying islets (2). Limited distribution in S New Guinea could lead to problems for this species in the future.

Distribution of the Spangled Kookaburra
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Spangled Kookaburra

Recommended Citation

Woodall, P. F. and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Spangled Kookaburra (Dacelo tyro), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.