The tail feathers of a lyrebird look like an ancient Greek instrument – a lyre – which explains where the bird got his name. Let’s find out what else is cool about these birds.
1. Two species
There are two species of lyrebirds – the superb lyrebird and Albert’s lyrebird. The superb lyrebird is the better known of the two. Albert’s lyrebird looks similar to the superb lyrebird, but his tail feathers aren’t quite as beautiful. Seen less frequently, Albert’s lyrebird is usually only found deep in the rainforest of Queensland, Australia.
2. Pretty boy
As with most birds, the male is more attractive than the female. Both genders have a brown body, and their throats have reddish brown markings. The female is smaller than the male, and measures between 74 and 84cm. The males are between 80 and 98cm long, including their tail feathers.
3. Impressive feathers
It is definitely those beautiful tail feathers that make the superb lyrebird so spectacular. Only the male has the tail features, which resemble a lyre when erect, and he uses them to court the female bird. The tail feathers consist of two brown and six whitish feathers. The two outer brown feathers are the impressive ones, creating the lyre look. The female also has tail feathers, but they are dull, more ‘boring’ and shorter than the male’s.
Listen to the superb lyrebird’s call online
4. Music to the ears
This bird could record an album of cover versions! The superb lyre can mimic just about anything he hears – whether it is a car alarm or a chainsaw, this bird can copy it. But that’s not all, he also mimics the calls of other birds, like the kookaburra, as if he doesn’t have enough of his own impressive whistles and cackling notes.
5. Feet on the ground
The lyrebird is a ground dweller in moist rainforests by day, and then sleeps in the trees at night. During the day, he will scratch in the leaf litter on the forest floor to find food. They are shy birds and will quickly flee on foot when approached, all the while alarming other animals, or they will take cover and freeze. The lyrebird can fly, but keeps this mode of transport to a minimum.
6. Lunch time!
These birds don’t gather around the dinner table when they feed – they prefer to be solitary when looking for food. Being carnivores, they eat a variety of insects, beetles, larvae, spiders, bugs, frogs and lizards. Sometimes, they enjoy some seeds as well.
7. Mother hen
Building her own, untidy nest on the ground, the female will lay a single egg. About 50 days later, if the egg hatches, the mother lyrebird will foster her baby alone, until he or she leaves the nest after 6-10 weeks.
8. Down under, Mate
You’ll find the superb lyrebird in south-eastern Australia’s mainland and in southern Tasmania. They can be described as ancient animals, with fossils of this bird dating back to 15 million years ago exhibited in the Australian Museum in Sydney.
There are various emblems and logos, postage stamps and even coins depicting the superb lyrebird. You’ll find him on the Australian 10c coin and on their 100$ note. A stamp, issued in Australia in 1932, also featured a superb lyrebird in a courtship pose. Companies are even named after this bird!
Who would ever have thought that the cute-looking quoll (a carnivorous marsupial) is one of the lyrebird’s enemies? And then, apart from the human threat, these birds are also hunted by bigger birds. Being ground dwellers, they usually flee their enemies on foot, and hide under bushes.