Thursday, 7 February 2013

Local Wildlife: Superb Lyrebird

One of the most interesting birds found in Australia, if not the world, is the Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae). This shy forest-floor dweller is best known for the elegant stylish tail feathers found on the adult male as well as its many distinctive calls. Most calls are heard during the breeding season (May to August) and are distinctive to different localities, although they are known to sing at other times to vocally defend their territory from other lyrebirds. Often Superb Lyrebirds mimic the sounds of other birds and animals into their song, giving their performances an individual touch which can delight lucky passers-by.

The Blue Mountain Pheasant of New South Wales
from Views of New South Wales (1813)

To illustrate this post we have included a wonderful image from the hand of artist Philip Slaegar. This convict-era artist describes the Superb Lyrebird as the Blue Mountains Pheasant, and superficially its body shape and wispy tail feathers look, somewhat, similar to the Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), an Asian bird familiar to pioneer settlers as it was introduced into England and Europe as a game bird many centuries ago.

The Superb Lyrebird has had a long association with our area, and this is reflected in the name of the nearby village of Cullen Bullen, which is named after a local Aboriginal word for the bird. Although hard to see, the Superb Lyrebird is a common bird of the Capertee district, often found in forest areas on the many scree slopes of the valley edge. Being ground-dwelling they are notoriously shy and mostly avoid areas where dogs, cats and other predators live. Often the only sign of their presence is the sound of their call or the magical find of discovering one of their tail feathers.

For those who have never heard the call of this wonderful bird we have provided a link to the Capertee Birder website which features sound recordings of local lyre birds.

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