The Kookaburra Pregnancy Myth: What Does it Mean? Is it True?

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Written by Shandra Williams

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If you live in the United States, you may not be familiar with the kookaburra pregnancy myth. However, if you’re from Australia and have Aboriginal friends or acquaintances, it’s probably one you’ve heard before. In case you haven’t, let’s talk about it. 

According to Australian Aboriginals, if a kookaburra lands on the clothesline or fence near a group of women and begins to laugh, one of the women is pregnant. Some Australian natives believe the same is true of a household; i.e., if a kookaburra laughs outside a house, someone inside is pregnant.

That’s pretty much the crux of the myth. However, in this article, we’ll trace the tale’s origins and talk about why the kookaburra is the chosen bird in it. Keep reading to find out more.

The Kookaburra Pregnancy Myth

The origins of the kookaburra pregnancy myth are unknown, and the actual tale has changed a bit over time. As I mentioned already, the original myth was that a laughing kookaburra near a group of women meant that one of them was pregnant. 

A close-up of a famous Australian Kookaburra bird in natural bush setting

However, as time passed, people adjusted that some to say a kookaburra laughing outside a house meant someone in the house was pregnant. 

However, other versions of the myth say that a laughing kookaburra means someone you know is pregnant.

As one mom points out in a What to Expect forum, “When I told my boss at work [that I was pregnant] she said the same thing to me [about the kookaburra myth] and that she [had] been having a kookaburra sitting on her fence laughing for the past week” (source: What to Expect Community).

That last version changes the worth of the myth quite a bit. After all, if the laughing bird means someone you know is pregnant – and not someone in the group or the house – it could practically be anyone! (Of course, that means that the myth has a better chance of being true, as well.)

Either way, there’s no scientific proof or current evidence to suggest that a kookaburra can accurately predict pregnancy. But, like all Old Wives’ Tales, it’s a fun superstition that can bring a little joy and levity to the day. 

But why did the Aboriginals pick the kookaburra as the harbinger of pregnancy? Why not a cockatoo or a magpie? 

Honestly, no one knows for sure since the myth’s origins are unclear. But I think there were three primary reasons why they chose this specific bird:

  • Its call is unique and sounds like human laughter.
  • The birds symbolize joy, laughter, love, togetherness, and happiness. 
  • They have an interesting mating/family dynamic.

First and foremost, of all the birds in Australia, the kookaburra is the only one with a call that sounds like genuine human laughter. That’s even how it got its name. The word comes from the Wiradjuri Aboriginal word “Guuguuburra,” which represents the sound of a person’s laugh. 

That distinct call sets it apart from other birds, just as the hyena’s laugh sets it apart from other mammals. As a result, many Aboriginal legends and myths surround the kookaburra. 

One of the oldest concerns is the world’s creation. According to the Aboriginals, Bayame, one of their gods, created the sun, and the first sunrise was so beautiful that he didn’t want humankind to miss seeing it.

Therefore, Bayame demanded that the kookaburra laugh loudly enough to wake up the whole world so they could see it (source: Honolulu Zoo). 

Then, it also makes sense that they’d use the same unique bird in other myths, such as the pregnancy myth. The call is easily recognizable, and no one is likely to confuse it for another bird. That makes it the perfect herald.

Secondly, according to the Aboriginal people, kookaburras represent several positive aspects and emotions, including: 

two Kookaburra birds on branches

Those same emotions are associated with childbirth, pregnancy, and bringing new life into the world. 

Finally, kookaburras mate for life. And according to Symbols and Synchronicity, they are the symbols of “long-lasting, dedicated, cooperative love.” They’re also one of the few birds that stay close to their offspring, encouraging them to visit their nests for up to four years after they’ve hatched (source: The Nature Conservancy of Australia). 

The older siblings even help take care of newly hatched baby birds. They maintain strong family bonds, just as any human family should aspire to do. For that reason, they’re the perfect bird to help ‘spread the good news’ about a potential new member of the family.

If you came here wondering what that kookaburra outside your house is laughing about, hopefully, this article gave you some potentially good news to ponder. Just keep in mind that an Old Wives’ Tale has no basis in fact, no matter how many times it’s “proven” to be true!