The lyrebird is the national bird of Australia. She is notable not only for this, but also for her ability to imitate different sounds, both natural and artificial. Male birds are also distinguished by the unusualness and beauty of their huge tail in the form of a musical instrument – a lyre. The tail of the male lyrebirds is shown so that the females pay attention to them during the mating season.
View origin and description
Lyrebird or lyre bird (Menura) – a bird that belongs to the order & # 171; Sparrows & # 171;, the family & # 171; Lyrebirds & # 187; (Menuridae), genus Menura. Initially, ornithologists argued a lot about the generic affiliation of lyrebirds and wanted to identify them in the order «Gills». There are only two species of these birds that have been living exclusively on the territory of the Australian continent for many millions of years.
Interesting fact: In the so-called «reserve of fossils» in northwest Queensland, the fossilized remains of a lyrebird, about 15 million years old, belonging to the prehistoric species Menura tyawanoides, which dates back to the early Miocene, have been found.
The length of male lyrebirds in place with a tail no more than 1 meter, and half of the length falls on the tail, and their weight is about 1 kg. Females are slightly lighter in weight, and their length is slightly less. The long and unusually shaped tail of these birds is very reminiscent of a lyre (a musical instrument), and this feature is unique to males.
The color of the lyrebird's plumage is usually brown (from light to dark), with the exception of the neck and chest. In these places, the feathers have gray shades. The birds have short wings, rounded at the ends, with darker stripes on the tail feathers. The lyrebird has a small head. On its sides are rather large eyes of bright blue or brown. The legs are long and strong, with sharp, tenacious claws.
Lyrebirds have a complex laryngeal apparatus, thanks to which they can not only sing, but also very accurately imitate a variety of sounds. Birds sing almost all year round, but during the breeding season, their singing can last for several hours.
Appearance and features
The body length of an adult lyre bird is usually 76-100 cm, weight &# 8212; 870-1200. Their sexual dimorphism is quite pronounced: males are much larger than females both in length and in weight, moreover, the most characteristic feature of birds is that only males have a luxurious long tail in the form of a lyre.
The feathers of birds on the back and wings are predominantly brown (with the exception of the extreme pair of tail feathers), the neck and breast — in grey, belly — in beige cream. The wings of the lyrebird are short, rounded, with beige-cream plumage (like on the abdomen), completely unsuitable for a long flight. In their natural habitat, birds run more than fly, because they have long strong legs. All four toes have strong, sharp claws.
The extreme pair of tail tail feathers of the lyre bird is curved outward on the sides of the tail, which, in fact, reminds everyone of the lyre. The eyes of birds are round, rather large for a small head, blue or brown in color with dark brown or black pupils. The beak is medium in size, pointed, very strong, allowing you to get food from hard-to-reach places. In nature, lyrebirds live up to 15 years, and in captivity they can live 2-3 times longer.
Where does the lyrebird live?
A lyrebird bird is an indigenous inhabitant of Australia, but it can be seen only in a rather limited area of u200bu200bthe mainland: from Brisbane (Victoria) to Melbourne (Queensland).
Interesting fact: Lyrebirds are the oldest of all animals living in Australia. Their history goes back millions of years, and proof of this is the remains of the lyre bird, whose approximate age is 15 million years.
The population of lyrebirds is not too high and it is most concentrated in protected areas: in the national parks of Kinglake and Dandenong, as well as in the suburbs and park areas of Sydney and Melbourne. In order to increase the distribution of these unusual birds, lyrebirds were brought to the island of Tasmania in 1934, where they successfully settled down, took root and feel great.
For permanent habitat, lyrebirds choose moist eucalyptus forests and southern mixed forests of the temperate zone, abundantly overgrown with dense undergrowth, shrubs and tall grasses. In these thickets impenetrable to humans, birds prefer to hide from enemies, get food, build their nests, and feed their chicks. Lyrebirds spend most of their time during the day on the ground in search of food. They spend the night on the branches of trees.
Now you know where the lyrebird lives. Let's see what the lyre bird eats.
What does the lyrebird eat?
Lyrebirds wake up very early, jump to the ground from the branches of the trees where they spent the night, and immediately begin, no, not to a meal, but to singing. The fact that the birds have already woken up will immediately be recognized by the whole forest, since their songs are always quite long, loud and melodic. After singing, the obligatory cleaning of the property from the debris accumulated during the night begins: fallen branches and leaves. After the morning concert and cleaning, the birds start breakfast.
Lyrebirds feed on a variety of invertebrates:
- insects, their eggs and larvae;
They search for their food by intensively shoveling a layer of fallen leaves with the help of long clawed paws. Also, birds do not disdain the seeds of various herbaceous plants, which appear in abundance in autumn. In total, they spend most of their time looking for food, with a few breaks for singing. In the rain, lyrebirds sit in their shelters and sing much more, since the question of finding food temporarily fades into the background due to bad weather.
Also, lyrebirds can prey on various insects and their larvae, picking their beak for a long time old rotten stumps or trunks of fallen trees. A strong and sharp beak helps the birds perfectly in this event.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Lyrebird lead mostly daytime lifestyle and form «marital» pairs only for the breeding season. Outside of the mating season, birds prefer to live in small flocks and roam back and forth all together in search of food.
Lyrebirds fly badly. All they can do is to fly up a tree in the evening to spend the night there, and early in the morning with enviable elegance to glide from there to the ground. Although the birds fly and it doesn’t matter, they make rather long transitions, practically without feeling tired.
During the mating season, male lyrebirds sing a lot, every now and then throwing their long luxurious tail over their heads. Due to the ability to perfectly imitate different sounds, their singing is like a combination of songs of different birds and the sounds of musical instruments.
Despite their fearfulness and caution over the past couple of decades, lyrebirds have become so accustomed to human presence that they almost do not react to people at all, even in the vicinity of their displays. Some of the more daring males even sometimes begin to follow passers by spreading their tails.
Interesting fact: Lyre birds are very fond of being photographed and are not at all afraid of a person with a camera. For this reason, most photographs of the lyrebird are successful. In addition, the bird easily imitates the sound of a camera shutter click.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Sexual maturity in female lyrebirds occurs at about 3 years, in males — at 4-5 years old. The breeding season for lyrebirds takes place in winter, when the males finally grow a beautiful lyre-shaped tail after molting. Each mature male, preparing for the mating season, occupies an area of about 700 square meters. meters and carefully prepares several earthen mounds, thoroughly tamping them and freeing them from various forest debris.
These mounds are needed by males as a kind of dance floor. They do it this way: having climbed one of the mounds, the male spreads his chic tail, throws it up and starts to sing. The singing of the male is very loud, melodious, calling, and after a while several females gather around him at once, ready to accept his «offer».
After mating, the female begins to build a nest from dry branches, leaves and moss. The bottom of the nest is usually lined with down and small feathers. Most often, the nest is arranged directly on the ground (in a small depression) or on a stump. Lyrebirds usually lay only one spotted gray egg. The egg is incubated for almost two months and exclusively by the female. Occasionally, the female leaves the nest to eat, covering the egg with fluff so that it does not get cold.
The only chick is born weak, naked, blind, and only ten days after hatching, its body is covered with down. For several weeks, the female herself feeds the cub with juicy larvae and warms it with her warmth. Almost two months after birth, the young lyrebird leaves the nest for the first time. He lives with his mother for about another six months and gains life experience.
Natural enemies of lyrebirds
By nature, lyrebirds are very cautious and shy creatures. For this reason, studying their habits is a rather difficult task for ornithologists. Suspecting even the slightest danger, the birds make a characteristic sound, notifying their relatives and immediately try to hide. If you look closely, in the forest bushes, you can see barely noticeable narrow paths trodden by lyrebirds. Birds move along them very quickly and almost silently.
In natural conditions, there are a lot of fans to hunt this beautiful bird. It can be wolves and foxes, as well as all types of cats that live in Australia. Fifty years ago, lyrebirds were under a serious threat of extinction, but timely measures taken to preserve the species made it possible to avoid this. One such measure was the idea of spreading these birds on the island of Tasmania. The idea turned out to be very successful and the population of lyrebirds began to grow, and at a fairly rapid pace.
The ubiquitous human activity also poses some threat to lyrebirds. After all, a person is never enough, he is constantly expanding the boundaries of his fields and cities, building factories, cutting down forests and thus destroying their natural habitat.
Interesting fact: Lyrebirds are almost not afraid of people at all . Birds are not averse to being photographed and there have even been cases when lyrebirds tried to escape forest fires in mines along with firefighters who were involved in their elimination
Population and species status
As already mentioned, scientists have always argued a lot about the classification of lyrebirds. At first, due to some external resemblance to the pheasant, partridge and comb chicken, they wanted to be attributed to chicken-like, shrubby and even bower birds. As a result of long disputes, bringing in many different contradictory arguments and arguments, lyrebirds were nevertheless singled out in a separate family «Lyrebirds».
They have only two types:
- common lyrebird.
Albert's lyrebird differs from the common lyrebird in its smaller size, weight, less bright plumage color and more limited habitat (Queensland selva area). Queen Victoria – Prince Albert.
Currently, lyre birds are neither rare nor endangered, although their habitat is limited to only a small part of the northern coast of Australia, but this has historically been the case. At the moment, lyre birds remain only under the supervision of scientists in terms of creating schemes that protect their natural environment and resist the pressure of the human population, which only grows over the years and has a detrimental effect on nature and ecology.
In conclusion I would like to tell one amazing story related to lyre birds. Around the same time (it was in 1969), Neville Fenton, a park ranger in the Dorrito suburb, recorded a lyrebird song that also sounded like a flute playing. Comparing the facts, Fenton did a little research and found out that in the 30s, a man who often played the flute lived on a farm that was located next to the park. This man had a pet lyrebird. It turned out that the bird remembered the melody, and then repeated it in the park and other birds heard it.
Neville Fenton did not stop there and sent his recording to ornithologist and sound engineer Norman Robinson. Robison analyzed the recording and found out that the lyrebird song was a slightly modified version of two very popular tunes at the time.