Male Albert's lyrebird

Male Albert's lyrebird

Male superb lyrebird ©Getty Images

Male superb lyrebird ©Getty Images

Lyrebirds are found in Australia, and belong to a group of birds called passiforms.

There are 2 species (kinds) of lyrebird: 

  • superb lyrebird, which is about the size of a rooster, and
  • Albert's lyrebird, which is the smaller of the two.

Albert's lyrebird is the rarer of the two, and doesn't have the same tail feathers as the superb lyrebird.

Habitat and Distribution (where they are found)

Albert's lyrebird is found mostly in rainforests and wet forests in Australia in the mountains of southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales.  The superb lyrebird is found in parts of southeast Queensland, and southeast Victoria, and  in Tasmania . They are found in forest regions.

Superb lyrebird display: his head is facing the camera. ©Getty Images

Superb lyrebird display: his head is facing the camera. ©Getty Images

Appearance and Behaviours

The superb lyrebird gets its name because of the tail of the male bird. When the tail is raised over his head, it looks like an ancient musical stringed instrument called a lyre. The male carries the tail low most of the time, but when he is trying to attract a female during the mating season, he spreads his tail and raises it over his head. When he does this, the tail covers his body and head. The tail can be as long as 60 centimetres when the male is fully grown at about 8 years old.  

Lyrebirds have mostly brown feathers and although they have wings, they don't often fly. They move about the forests on foot, running and jumping quickly on their short legs.  At night they roost in trees.   They have four claws on each leg.

The Albert's lyrebird is a shy bird, rarely seen. However, it has a spectacular song that, like that of the superb lyrebird,  mimics the sounds of the forest and other birds.

To court a female, the male lyrebird makes several mounds of earth which he uses as performance platforms around his territory. He opens his tail over his head, and dances and sings on the mounds. He extends his tail and holds it over his back and head so that his body is under it. He shivers the tail and sings his own sounds, and also sounds of the forest and other sounds he has heard, even chainsaws, cars and cameras.  Each lyrebird has his own song, made up of the particular sounds he has heard and imitated in his territory.  Several females will be attracted to his performances.

Male superb lyrebird scratching for food ©Getty Images

Male superb lyrebird scratching for food ©Getty Images

Diet

Lyrebirds feed on the ground, turning the soil with their long claws and hunting under leaf litter for earthworms, insects, spiders, beetles, insect larvae, centipedes and similar prey.

Life Cycle

After mating with a male, a female lays one egg in a nest built on the ground or around the stump of a tree or fern. The nest is up to about 10 cm high and about 70 cm wide and made of sticks and leaves. The egg hatches in about six weeks and the young lyrebird stays in the nest for about six weeks. The female feeds her young.

The superb lyrebird is on one side of the Australian 10c coin. ©Getty Images

The superb lyrebird is on one side of the Australian 10c coin. ©Getty Images

Conservation status and Threats

Lyrebirds are  protected.  Albert's lyrebird is classified as Vulnerable (the stage before endangered). The superb lyrebird was once almost extinct, but is now not threatened.

However, both species need to be protected from feral cats and foxes, and their forest habitats are affected by human activity such as logging and four-wheel driving. 

Watch videos, including a male superb lyrebird's display in which he imitates other birds, including a kookaburra:

http://www.arkive.org/superb-lyrebird/menura-novaehollandiae/video-00.htm

Watch a video of the smaller Albert's lyrebird:

http://www.arkive.org/alberts-lyrebird/menura-alberti/video-00.htm

Read the kidcyber page:

birds