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Not to be confused with the “superb liar-bird” - a bird that’s so dishonest, it begins to believe its own lies - the superb lyrebird is found only in the forests along the southeast coast of Australia.
Here are 7 facts you might not know about the superb lyrebird.
1. They’re great mimics.
The superb lyrebird might not do an incredible Michael Caine impersonation, but that’s probably only because they haven’t seen a Michael Caine film. Superb lyrebirds have been known to imitate car alarms, camera shutters, shooting from video games, workmen and chainsaws.
Like a fine wine or a stinky cheese, the superb lyrebird’s calls even improve with age.
2. They enjoy architecture and interior decorating.
Female Lyrebirds build dome-shaped nests made of sticks. They build these cosy structures on the ground, in tree stumps, in tree ferns or even in caves, and fill them with fern fronds, feathers, moss and roots – a particularly talented lyrebird could even put Grand Designs homeowners to shame.
Once they’ve built and decorated their home, they’ll generally lay one egg, which hatches in six weeks. The young lyrebird will then live in the nest for the first 6-10 weeks of its life.
3. They’re musical.
Well, not in the way that the Artist Formerly Known as Prince was - Prince could famously play any musical instrument. The lyrebird gets its name from its tail. The male of the species in particular, boasts a spectacular tail, which was originally thought to resemble – you guessed it – a lyre.
4. They’re polygynous.
The male lyrebird mates and lives with multiple females, while the female lyrebird mates only with a single male. Whether they’re happy with this lopsided arrangement, you’d have to ask a lyrebird.
5. Their feet are just as impressive as their tail.
The lyrebird has powerful legs with long toes and claws, which they use for raking through dead leaves and soil to find their food, which consists of ground-dwelling insects, frogs , spiders and other small invertebrates.
6. They’re not the only lyrebird.
There’s also a smaller, darker lyrebird that lacks the elegant lyre-shaped tail feathers of the superb lyrebird. This is the Albert’s lyrebird – less superb, but equally amazing – the Albert’s lyrebird is found in only a small region of south-east Queensland and far northeast New South Wales. With brown upper body plumage and a rich chestnut colour below, they are roughly the size of a pheasant.
The Albert’s lyrebird, like the superb lyrebird, is also an excellent mimic and often impersonates other bird calls.
7. Beauty is no guarantee of safety.
Threats to the species include danger from vehicle collisions, domestic animal, and foxes. Having survived the devastation of the 2019-20 bushfires by living in one of the Unburnt Six forest areas on our east coast, lyrebirds are still vulnerable to threats such as land-clearing and logging and need our help to thrive and stay as superb as we know they are.
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