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A Sculptor Made This 15-Foot-Tall Laughing Kookaburra in Lockdown

Farvardin Daliri in Brisbane, Australia crafted the giant sculpture, which opens its beak and cackles with laughter

A 15-foot-tall sculpture of a laughing kookaburra in Brisbane, Australia (Courtesy of Farvardin Daliri)
smithsonianmag.com

While many people took to baking sourdough or tried birdwatching during the COVID-19 lockdown, Farvardin Daliri embarked on a unique passion project: constructing a 15-foot-tall mechanical kookaburra that laughs like the real thing.

The 65-year-old artist lives in Brisbane, Australia, where the kookaburra and its infectious trademark cackle is a symbol of national pride. He started the project in February and completed it in May, he tells Isha Bassi at Buzzfeed.

Daliri welded steel cords to make the bird’s body, which he in turn welded to a trailer. He used bamboo straws kitted with wire for the bird’s body, ceramic for its eyes and fiberglass for its beak, which opens and closes as it emits a recorded kookaburra call. He employed a secondhand car battery and motor to make the beak open and close, Jessica Leigh Hester reports for Atlas Obscura.

After completing his project, Daliri took the giant bird for a spin around the neighborhood. He posted a video of his creation to Twitter, where it went viral.

“I had no dream that this is going to strike such a chord with everyone,” Daliri tells Isabella Kwai at the New York Times. “This is hilarious.”

Laughing kookaburras are native to eastern Australia. They usually let loose their distinctive call around dusk and dawn to establish their territory, according to the Nature Conservancy Australia.

“Laughter is therapeutic and a kookaburra’s laugh is contagious; everyone joins in and I want to drive around to cheer up the whole town,” Daliri tells Buzzfeed. Speaking with Atlas Obscura, he adds: “Against the background of so many sad things happening—natural disasters, health disasters, human-made disasters—we find hardly anything to be happy about, and we need to really start thinking about having a laughing session.”

Daliri was born in Iran and moved to Australia in the 1980s, according to his website. He holds a fine arts degree and worked as an artist in India before moving to Australia. As the New York Times reports, Daliri’s sculptures fit into a larger Australian tradition of making “Big Things,” oversized sculptures scattered around the country—including a Big Banana and a Big Bicycle, for instance.

This isn’t Daliri’s first major sculpture, Atlas Obscura reports. Among other projects, Daliri has built a 33-foot crocodile and a 200-foot-long snake that was a totem for the First Nations people in Burdekin Shire. According to CNN, he plans to show off his now-viral kookaburra sculpture in the upcoming Culture Festival in Townsville, Australia, a festival that he founded and directs each year.

The bird’s booming call has been a hit with Daliri’s neighbors in Brisbane, Jessica Hinchliffe reports for ABC Radio Brisbane. Daliri has been encouraging people to stop by and take photos with the bird—while staying a safe distance away from one another, he notes.

And it’s not just human neighbors who are paying attention, he tells Atlas Obscura—some neighborhood birds are intrigued, too. “Some come closer and closer and sit on electric lines and watch,” he says. “Other kookaburras laugh back.”

About Nora McGreevy

Nora McGreevy is a freelance journalist based in South Bend, Indiana. Her work has appeared in Wired, Washingtonian, the Boston Globe, South Bend Tribune, the New York Times and more. She can be reached through her website, noramcgreevy.com.

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