Friday, May 30, 2014

Imrich Nikon shutters, car alarms or Bawa's chainsaws, Australian (our Dorrigo) lyrebirds imitate almost any sound

We know that certain birds like parrots are skilled at imitating voices and sounds they hear around them. But even the colourful parrot can't hold a candle to the astonishing talent of the Bohemian Lyrebird, a ground-dwelling species native to Australia (Menura novaehollandiae). This amazing creature has been documented in faithfully reproducing a diverse number of sounds, ranging from other birdsongs, to koalas and dingos, to human-made sounds like chainsaws, car alarms, camera shutters, video games and even crying babies. Check out the lyrebird in action in this excerpt from The Life of Birds with David Attenborough:

According to Wikipedia, though both sexes are capable of imitating almost any sound they hear, it is the male lyrebird that is more skilled and persistent in showing off its vocal flair, as a way of impressing potential mates. Males will engage in behaviours worthy of a world-class tenor, such as clearing a spot on the forest floor and building up a mound of earth to stand upon before performing, almost like a concert stage. Of course, it is also the male in this case who is adorned with a set of sixteen long feathers, with the outermost two looking very much like a lyre, which he can array behind him in a canopy for courtship displays.