Also called the Lyretail or Native Pheasant, two species of Lyrebird are found in Australia. The most common is the Superb Lyrebird. When seen they are normally just a blur as they run and dodge rapidly through the dense forest underbrush. Their wings aid them in running and jumping up into branches and onto rocks etc and then gliding back down again.
Although they seldom fly, they do roost in low trees at night.
They are found in the moist forests and rugged forest country along coastal eastern Australia, from near Stanthorpe in Queensland to as far south as Melbourne in Victoria. It has also been introduced in Tasmania.
They are remarkably competent mimics, able to imitate most of the calls of the other species in their locality, as well as some sounds produced by humans. It is not unusual, for example, for a male Lyrebird to imitate the calls of as many as 15 species of birds.
They have several powerful calls of their own, the chief of which is a resounding 'choo-choo-choo'. Often in the morning you may think you are surrounded by a multitude of bird species, to find out you have been fooled by a lyrebird. Car noises, chainsaws, dogs and other noises are no problem for this excellent imitator. The mimicry, though used in the mating courtship, is heard all year round. It is said to be the way the male Lyrebird tells others this is his territory, much like the Kookaburras "laugh."
One of the great exhibitions of the Australian forests is the courtship display of the male Superb Lyrebird. First he builds a small dirt mound upon which he stands so he is better seen and heard. He then spreads his magnificent tail feathers up and over his head into a Lyre shape - the tail is only spread and displayed for mating courtship purposes - he then sings to his intended, his own songs as well as other bird sounds and noises. As he sings he moves about (or dances) to attract the females attention.
Nest-building, incubating the egg, and rearing the nestling are, however, performed entirely by the female. During the day the Lyrebird spends most of the time on the ground sifting through fallen leaves and debris, or tearing decaying logs to pieces in search of food, which consists of insects, worms, and small land molluscs.
The breeding season is from May to September. In most instances ONE egg is laid in June or July (mid-winter), hatching in about six weeks. The young bird remains in the nest for a further six weeks.
Pizzey, Graham and Frank Knight, The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, Angus & Robertson, 1997.
Nature Feature: The Lyrebird http://www.australianstamp.com/Coin-web/feature/nature/lyrebird.htm
Unique Australian Animals, http://home.iprimus.com.au/readman/lyrebird.htm
Australian Museum Factsheet on the Lyrebird - http://www.austmus.gov.au/factsheets/superb_lyrebird.htm
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