The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is mourning the loss of Bloke the laughing kookaburra, one of the Zoo’s most well known and beloved Animal Ambassadors. Bloke, who at age 23 was one of the oldest kookaburras in North America, died peacefully of old age overnight on Tuesday, January 21.

“Bloke was one of several kookaburras on exhibit in the Main Valley before becoming an Animal Ambassador 17 years ago,” said Mike McClure, general curator for the Zoo. “On exhibit, he was known to be aggressive with his prey items and was always leaving a mess for keepers. In addition, he was very friendly with staff and would vocalize on command. It was his charismatic ‘laughing’ personality that brought him to the Embassy in 1998 for educational purposes, and he thrived on the attention.”

The laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) is the largest member of the kingfisher family. Native to woodlands and open forests in Australia, they are also known as the “bushman’s alarm clock” because of their loud call as they vocalize in their family group at dawn and dusk. The call sounds like a variety of trills, chortles, belly laughs, and hoots. It starts and ends with a low chuckle and has a shrieking “laugh” in the middle. The song is one way the birds advertise their territory.

During his time as an Ambassador, Bloke not only visited thousands of school children on Zoomobile programs, he also made his mark on local television and radio, and spent many hours on grounds greeting visitors. “Bloke was also featured on national television numerous times with Jack Hanna, and appeared on the Martha Stewart, Caroline Rhea, Larry King Live, and Maury Povich shows. He endeared himself to everyone, and without him the Animal Embassy will be very quiet,” continued Eveleth. “I will miss calling to him each day coming in to work and as I left to go home. It was my favorite part of my day.”