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  • Writer's pictureNhanta

Did you know: The Lyrebird Imitates Sounds? 🎥

A lyrebird is either of two species of ground-dwelling Australian birds that compose the genus Menura, and the family Menuridae. They are most notable for their superb ability to mimic natural and artificial sounds from their environment, and the striking beauty of the male bird's huge tail when it is fanned out in courtship display. Lyrebirds have unique plumes of neutral-coloured tailfeathers and are among Australia's best-known native birds. (

There are 2 species in the family of lyrebirds - the superb lyrebird and the Albert's lyrebird.

They are most well-known for their impressive ability to mimic not only sounds of other birds, but also chainsaws, car alarms and engines, camera shutters and more. (see video below)

Australian Male Lyrebird

The lyrebird is a ground-dwelling pheasant-sized songbird found in moist forest areas of south-eastern Australia. Its name originates from the spectacular shape of its tail feathers, which resemble the ancient Greek harp called a “lyre”. With a most astonishing collection of songs, it is the largest singing bird in the world. During mating season, the male lyrebird combines its own songs with an extraordinary array of other natural and artificial sounds from its environment to create a cacophony of complex sounds to attract a female. Females of the species are smaller than the males, with similar colouring but without the lyre-shaped tail. The females' tail feathers are broadly webbed with reddish markings. Young male superb lyrebirds do not grow their lyre tails until they are three or four years old. Until this time, they usually group together and are known as 'plain-tails'.

After a pair of lyrebirds mate, the male will continue to display for other females, and mate as many times as possible. Female lyrebirds build their own nests, incubate the single egg alone for approximately 50 days before it hatches and raise the chick alone until it becomes independent. Lyrebirds do not reproduce until they are between 5 and 8 years old.

Lyrebird’s Mating Dance with Female

Female Lyrebird at nest

Lyrebirds look as interesting as they sound. The superb lyrebird has long, striped tail feathers that curl outward at the ends, and fluffy plumage around the tail. The lacy plumage accompanying the tail is known as “filamentaries.” Their bodies are brown and grey, with a reddish hue to the wings. Albert’s lyrebird is much less flashy, and lacks the long, elaborate tail of the superb lyrebird. It has brown and grey plumage, with a slight blue tint to the head and tail feathers. The two different species of lyrebirds are found in slightly different habitats. Superb lyrebirds prefer living in dense rainforests, which helps protect them from predators. Rainforest provides the birds with plenty of cover, and hiding places when confronted by a hungry fox or quoll. Superb lyrebirds can also be found in less-dense bushland. Alberts lyrebird is restricted to a very small section of rainforest, and is found nowhere else. Especially vulnerable due to its unique habitat, the Lyrebird is classified as a threatened species. Tragically, if clearing of rainforest continues at current rates, eventual extinction is a likely outcome.

Lyrebirds feed mainly on ground-dwelling insects, spiders, frogs, and other small invertebrates that they find by scratching among the leaf litter. They have powerful legs with long toes and claws, which are ideal for raking over dead leaves and soil. They are shy birds. When threatened, they escape by running and dodging rapidly through the undergrowth emitting high-pitched shrieks of alarm. With their short, round, weakly-muscled wings they rarely fly. However, their wings allow them to jump onto tree branches or rocks - and then glide back down to the forest floor.

What an amazing bird...listen now to what a lyrebird sounds like...

🎥 2:57 - David Attenborough: the amazing Lyrebird sings like a chainsaw! BBC Earth May 2019



NSW Government, Education Resources, July 2018 (viewed 23.10.2020)

Trishan’s OZ (viewed 23.10.2020)


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