Several years ago, I spent a few weeks prowling around in southwestern Australia with my late son Robert and his wife who were living in Perth.

It was during October, springtime down there. Wildflowers and flowering shrubs and trees were in full bloom. People were friendly; animals of all kinds were abundant, including colorful birds, snakes and lizards. One bird, the kookaburra is a member of the kingfisher family, and its laughing call often dominated the aural ambience of the African jungle in Tarzan movies, despite the fact that the species doesn’t occur in Africa.

The best places to see kookaburras were the roadside parks, where people would stop to eat their lunches and feed the seemingly fearless birds. I referred to them as picnic birds. On one occasion we stopped at a park to eat our sandwiches, and Robert was about to finish his when a kookaburra swooped down and snatched the remainder from his hands. The thief lit on a nearby branch, ate the stolen food, then laughed at Robert’s carelessness.