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Lyrebird (Menura)

A Lyrebird is either of two species of ground-dwelling Australian birds, most notable for their superb ability to mimic natural and artificial sounds from their environment. Lyrebirds have unique plumes of neutral coloured tail feathers.
Lyrebirds are among Australia's best-known native birds. As well as their extraordinary mimicking ability, lyrebirds are notable because of the striking beauty of the male bird's huge tail when it is fanned out in display; and also because of their courtship display. A group of Lyrebirds is called a musket.
A male Superb Lyrebird is featured on the reverse of the Australian 10 cent coin. A stylised Superb Lyrebird appears in the transparent window of the Australian $100 note.

In The Wild

The Superb Lyrebird or Weringerong (Menura novaehollandiae) is found in areas of rainforest in Victoria, New South Wales and south-east Queensland, as well as in Tasmania where it was introduced in the 19th century. Females are 74-84cm long, and the males are a larger 80-98cm long — making them the third-largest passerine bird after the Thick-billed Raven and the Common Raven. Many Superb Lyrebirds live in the Dandenong Ranges National Park and Kinglake National Park around Melbourne, the Royal National Park and Illawarra region south of Sydney and in many other parks along the east coast of Australia as well as non protected bushland.

Albert's Lyrebird (Menura alberti) is slightly smaller at a maximum of 90 cm (male) and 84 cm (female) (around 30-35 inches) and is only found in a very small area of Southern Queensland rainforest. They have smaller, less spectacular lyrate feathers than the Superb Lyrebird, but are otherwise similar. Albert's Lyrebird was named in honour of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria.


Albert's Lyrebird

In Captivity

Most zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, particularly those with aviaries and those on the eastern seaboard of Australia, are home to lyrebirds.


Behaviour
Male lyrebirds call mostly during winter, when they construct and maintain an open arena-mound in dense bush, on which they sing and dance in courtship, to display to potential mates, of which the male lyrebird has several. Females build an untidy nest usually low to the ground in a moist gully where she lays a single egg, and she is the sole parent who incubates the egg over 50 days until it hatches, and she is also the sole carer of the lyrebird chick.
A lyrebird's call is a rich mixture of its own song and any number of other sounds it has heard. The lyrebird's syrinx is the most complexly-muscled of the Passerines (songbirds), giving the lyrebird extraordinary ability, unmatched in vocal repertoire and mimicry. Lyrebirds render with great fidelity the individual songs of other birds and the chatter of flocks of birds, and also mimic other animals, human noises, machinery of all kinds, explosions, and musical instruments. The lyrebird is capable of imitating almost any sound — from a mill whistle to a cross-cut saw, and, not uncommonly, sounds as diverse as chainsaws, car engines and car alarms, fire alarms, rifle-shots, camera shutters, dogs barking, crying babies, and even the human voice. Lyrebirds are shy birds and a constant stream of bird calls coming from one place is often the only way of identifying them and their presence. The female lyrebird is also an excellent mimic, but she is not heard as often as the male lyrebird.

Food Habits
Lyrebirds feed on insects, spiders, earthworms and, occasionally, seeds. They find food by scratching with their feet through the leaf-litter. When in danger, lyrebirds run, rather than fly, being awkward in flight, and have also been seen to take refuge in wombat burrows. Also, firefighters sheltering in mine shafts during bushfires have been joined by lyrebirds.

Conservation Status
Lyrebirds are not endangered in the short to medium term. Albert's Lyrebird has a very restricted habitat but appears to be secure within it so long as the habitat remains intact, while the Superb Lyrebird, once seriously threatened by habitat destruction, is now classified as common. Even so, lyrebirds are vulnerable to cats and foxes, and it remains to be seen if habitat protection schemes will stand up to increased human population pressure

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