There’s an extraordinary bird that lives in the forests of Australia, one that shows up the mockingbird at least tenfold: the lyrebird. This feathery creature is best known for its amazing ability to imitate an array of sounds. The male will usually call out wonderful mimics of other bird life to attract mates. He will actually stand there at the forest floor and listen to the songs of the other birds. Then he will spread his beautiful tail feathers out, and unleash a brilliant combination of echos from a number of noises and animals. To get win over a female, he will have to render an incredibly complicated song, one that can include the calls of 20-if not more-species of birds, including the kookaburra. If he is good enough, he’ll even trick the real birds he is mimicking as they sing back to him. A lyrebird’s cries are so complex, that their species is considered to have the most intricate muscles of all passerines (songbirds).
But lyrebirds won’t just impersonate other birds and animals; they actually have a wide variety of noises that they will add to their stream of uncanny imitations. This includes sounds in the woods like the rustling of a thicket, or even the clamor of humans working in the birds’ natural habitat. The lyrebird is so sharp with his copying skills, that he can even produce a believable mixture of chainsaws, sirens, camera clicks, loud machinery, gun shots, mill whistles – even crying babies and barking dogs!
Several memorable stories highlight this bird’s amazing talent. One revolves around a particular lyrebird who had no problem calling the musical tune of a flute. Back in the 1930s near New England National Park, a man who had adopted a pet lyrebird would play his flute frequently. The bird in turn, would repeat the same song. Eventually the bird was released into the park, only to be discovered years later by ranger Neville Fenton. Upon hearing the wonderful notes of the bird, he taped the singing creature and sent it to Norman Robinson, who removed part of the bird’s call (a lyrebird can sing two tones at once) and they discovered that the sound was very closely related to two popular songs, Mosquito’s Dance and The Keel Row, both of which had come out in the 1930s. Not a surprising coincidence when you consider how skilled these creatures really are.