Lyrebird: The Bird That Can Mimic Any Sound in the World

Superb LyrebirdPhoto: Melburnian

The ancient Lyrebird, one of Australia’s oldest inhabitants, has existed for some 15 million years. Preferring south-eastern Australia’s wooded areas, lyrebirds are rather brown and chicken-like in appearance.

LyrebirdPhoto: Pearson Scott Foresman

The male, however, possesses a large and impressive lyre-shaped tail with which to augment his courtship display. First, he clears a small area on the forest floor and constructs a dull dirt mound that will become his amphitheatre.

Retouched image. Superb Lyrebird. Taken in Victoria, Australia in June 2008Photo: Fir0002

But it is the Lyrebird’s vocal repertoire that has gifted the species a degree of fame. An expert mimic, the Lyrebird can not only imitate the individual songs of other birds and the chatter of entire flocks but also the sounds of other animals. In fact, the bird can repeat almost any sound in the world, all thanks to its syrinx – the most intricate of all the world’s songbirds – giving the bird an unmatched songbook. The sounds that each bird can mimic depend greatly upon its environment. Lyrebirds that live in the forest mimic chainsaws and falling trees, the hunter’s gunshot and even camera shutters. Those that live closer to urban centres can impersonate musical instruments, car engines, fire alarms, crying babies, railway locomotives and even the human voice itself.

David Attenborough:

Superb lyrebird imitating construction work at Adelaide Zoo:

A little clever editing:

Once hunted for their tail plumage, the Lyrebird is now thankfully protected by law.

Sources: 1, 2, 3