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Song of the Week: Kookaburra

The Kookaburra song is a nursery rhyme about the Australian Kingfisher bird, also called the Laughing Kookabura because of its laugh-like call. Written by Marion Sinclair in the mid 1900′s, it’s a cute song that talks about a Kookaburra having a grand old time in a gum tree. As an interesting side note, the tune for Kookabura was also the subject of a lawsuit when Men At Work was accused of using the melody in their “Down Under” song.

I’ve known this song since I was a child (odd considering I grew up in Southern California) and lately we’ve been singing it while we read “Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball.” I mentioned this adorable book in Five Terrific Toddler Books and one of the pages in the story shows a big tree with a Kookaburra sitting in the branches while all the animals run around the tree. Every time we come to this page the munchkin says “Kooka! Kookaburr-ahh song!” I think he not only enjoys the sweet melody, but also likes saying such a funny sounding word. :)

Below are the lyrics to the song as I learned them. As you’ll see in the video above, my version is slightly different. Also, if you want to show your toddler what real kookaburras look like, the munchkin thinks the videos at the bottom of this post are awesome. Especially the second one. Who knew birds could laugh like that?

Kookabura Song Lyrics

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh, Kookaburra!
What a life you lead

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry, merry little bird is he
Sing, Kookaburra! Sing, Kookabura!
Sing your song for me.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Eating all the gum drops he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
Leave some there for me

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Counting all the monkeys he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
That’s not a monkey that is me.

About the Author
I'm a work-at-home mom and entertainment director for my son, a.k.a. The Munchkin. When we aren't doing art, singing songs or making something tasty in the kitchen we enjoy listening to podcasts and exploring the outdoors. I'm also slightly obsessed with coffee and love to knit. :)
  1. Tropical_coral

    Does anyone know all the words for the following kookaburra song?
      Kookaburra, kookaburra, sitting in a gum tree, high up in the branches, up tip top.  When a lizard passes, rustling through the grasses, down he …reach and catch you… up tip top.  Kook, kook, kook, kook, there you chuckle gaily, laugh your merry laughter, ha ha hoo hoo ha.  Ha ha hoo hoo ha ha hoo hoo Ha ha hoo hoo Ha ha. Till he makes your sides ache, laughing at you.
      Learnt this in Grade 4 at Malabar Public School, had never heard the one they taught my children in Queensland and that seems to be the only one everyone else knows.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve never heard that version! If you find it let us know. :)

  2. Hilary Caminer

    My mother remembers this version from about 75 or more years ago when she was a girl and was taught here in the UK by an Australian girl.
    She would live to hear the rest of the lyrics.

  3. Kristi

    Was curious, so I did a search… here it iCs, copied from another website:

    Copied Kookaburra! Source: “Gay Adventures”, first published in 1947. “Kookaburra!” Words by Annie Rentoul, music by Georgette Peterson

    Thanks to Marian Beswick-Arthur for posting this song to the Guide Mailing List!

    Kookaburra sitting on a gum tree High among the branches up tip top When a lizard passes rustling in the grasses Down you pounce and catch him Flip flap flop Kook kook kook kook Then you chuckle gaily Laugh your merry laughter ha ha hoo hoo hoo Ha ha hoo hoo Ha ha hoo hoo ha ha hoo hoo ha ha Till you make our sides ache laughing at you laughing at you.

  4. Christine Garcia

    Hi Ari, I came across your site by accident, I was looking for songs to sing to my 2yr old grandson (Konrad). I love the song Kookaburra. I have never heard it. Also, just a few days ago I started to sing the song Purple People Eater to Knonrad but I could only remember a few works and I found it on your website. I can’t wait until I see Konrad tomorrow so I can sing him the song.
    Thank you so much.
    Christine

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  6. James berry

    I’m 72years old and visited your COUNTRY meny times visiting my GRANDCHILDREN And they used to sing this to me when they came in from school .MY lasting memories of AUSTRALIA apart from my family is not the SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE OR KANGAROOS or other TOURST ATRACTIONS but the sound of the KOOKABURRA

    .

  7. Jenny Garcia

    I remember listing to this song on Doctor Who so I looked it up. The version I know is:
    Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
    Merry, merry king of the bush is he
    Laugh,Kookaburra,Laugh
    Gay your life must be.

    • Ari

      I remember that episode too! Nice to meet another Dr. Who fan. :)

    • Anjali Kapoot

      Haha! I came to this site because of Doctor Who too! I didn’t know it was a real song but I decided to try.

    • Sean Jacquot

      That’s the same reason why I looked this up XD

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  9. Kiley King

    We had to sing this in my chorus the song I know is…

    Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree merry merry king of the bushes he laugh kookaburra laugh kookaburra oh how fun your life must be

    That’s sort of all I remember!!!

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  11. Sean

    I too found my way here because of a Dr. Who episode. Chloe Weber sang the song while she was drawing and snatching kids.