What is a Lyrebird? Superb & Albert's Lyrebird Facts
The lyrebird is a ground dwelling pheasant-sized songbird found in moist forest areas of south-eastern Australia. It gets its name from the spectacular shape of its tail feathers which resemble the ancient Greek harp called a “lyre”. The most outstanding characteristic of this bird is its phenomenal art of mimicry. It can imitate almost any sound it hears.
Lyrebirds are large ground dwelling passerine birds, (roosting birds with feet designed for grasping branches). It has large eyes, a pointed beak, a longish neck, and strong legs with large feet with which it digs up forest floor litter and runs swiftly when required. They are capable of limited flight but seldom do. Using their wings merely to again access to a low lying branch on which to roost.
There are two types of lyrebirds - the superb lyrebird and the Albert's lyrebird. The superb lyrebird is the larger of the two species with the male measuring 80-100 cm in length. Its tail makes up more than half of this length. He has light brown wings, and a greyish-brown head and lower body with red-brown markings on his throat. The male lyrebird’s tail has sixteen feathers. The two outer tail feathers are patterned dark and light brown and form a lyre shape when extended. The inner feathers are like lacy filigree quills, of a silver to light brown colour. The female is smaller than the male measuring 74–84 cm in length is of a similar colouring as the male. The key difference is that it does not have a lyre-shaped tail. The Albert’s lyrebird is about 10% smaller than the superb lyrebird and is less spectacular all around even lacking the outer lyre-shaped tail feathers of the superb lyrebird.
For the first three to four years of their lives young male lyrebirds are rather plain like the females and lack the fancy plumage of an adult male. Until they acquire their plumage they referred to as 'plain-tails'. Lyrebirds live for between 12 to 16 years.
Lyrebird – World's Greatest Mimic
The lyrebird, with the most astonishing repertoire of songs, 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 an effort to attract a female.
It is believed that up to 80% of its songs are cut and pastes of sounds from it environment. Its mimicry is so accurate, in fact, that it can even fool the animal that it is imitating. Some of the sounds it may make may include a superb rendition of a kookaburra’s call, the sound of chainsaws, camera shutters, car alarms and ringtones, car engines, crying babies and even human voices.
Females too sing occasionally, but not with the same bravado as the males.
The superb lyrebird is found in moist forest areas of south-eastern Australia from south-east Queensland, through New South Wales and into Victoria east of the Great Dividing Range of mountains. It is also found in Tasmania where it was introduced in the 19th century. Albert’s lyrebird is only found in small pockets of forest in southern Queensland.
The Lyrebird is a shy solitary ground dwelling bird that is well camouflage in its environment. One is unlikely to see one except as a fleeting blur as it runs for cover if spotted.
It prefers a habitat with moist forest floors and leaf litter in which it rummages for food. It uses low branches to roost in at night.
Lyrebirds are predominately carnivorous but they occasionally eat seeds too. They feed mainly on ground inserts such as worms, spiders, other small invertebrates, snails, or myriapods such as millipedes and centipedes. They use their large feet to claw aside leaf litter dislodging hiding prey which they deftly picks off with their sharp pointy beaks.
During the breeding season, between May to August, the male lyrebird busies himself by first building a stage from which to sing his love songs. He clears a patch on the forest floor and builds a small mound on which to stand so he can be better seen and heard by possible mates. He then spreads out his magnificent lyre-shaped tail feathers and displays them over his head as he sings and and dances to attract a female.
Each male usually mates with several females. After mating the male takes no further interest in the female. She makes a dome-shaped nest of sticks, bark and leaves in a well-hidden location. There she lays a single blotchy brown egg which she incubates for about 42 days. While incubating she may leave her nest unattended for between 3 to 6 hours to search for food. The chick stays with its mother for between 6 t o10 weeks before becoming fully independent.
Lyrebird – Threats & Predators What Treats Do Lyrebirds Face?
There no serious native predators of adult lyrebirds. Chicks however fall victim to goannas — native monitor lizards, snakes and wedge-tailed eagles.
Land clearing and forest felling by humans is the biggest treat to these birds. While the Albert's lyrebird may have been impacted by human activity, the overall lyrebird population does not seem to have been serious affected.
Lyrebird – Conservation Status
The superb lyrebird is not considered to be endangered. The Albert's lyrebird, however, with its very limited habitat is considered vulnerable.
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