Found in Australian forests, male Superb Lyrebirds can mimic calls well enough to convince the bird they’re imitating that the lyrebird is one of their own! While males sing to attract mates, females imitate the calls of predators, which could help frighten other birds off their territories.
Listen to this episode in Spanish here.
The Birdsong Chameleon
Written by Camilo Garzón
This is BirdNote.
[Superb Lyrebird song]
Imagine you were a bird with a unique birdsong. You might be surprised to hear your signature song repeated back to you with near-perfect accuracy, but not from your same species.
The source of the echo is the birdsong chameleon known as the Superb Lyrebird!
[Superb Lyrebird song]
Found in Australian forests, male Superb Lyrebirds can mimic calls well enough to convince the bird they’re imitating that the Lyrebird is one of their own!
Here’s his impression of a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. First you’ll hear the lyrebird, and then the bird he’s mimicking.
[Superb Lyrebird song crossfades with Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo]
A Pied Currawong.
[Superb Lyrebird song crossfades with Pied Currawong]
[Superb Lyrebird call crossfades with Laughing Kookaburra call]
And even an Eastern Whipbird.
[Superb Lyrebird call crossfades with Eastern Whipbird]
The Superb Lyrebird is one of nature’s greatest mimics, a living and breathing dictaphone. While males sing to attract mates, females imitate the calls of predators, which could help frighten other birds off their territories!
Lyrebirds in zoos even pick up mechanical noises like car alarms, chainsaws, and construction sounds. The BBC recorded one lyrebird imitating a camera shutter.
[Superb Lyrebird camera shutter sound]
David Attenborough: That was the camera shutter.
What a trickster!
This show is also available en español — visit our website, BirdNote dot org, to learn more. I'm Camilo Garzón.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Content Director: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Script Editor: Camila Kerwin from the Rough Cut Collective
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Superb Lyrebird ML 463586881 recorded by J. Holmes, Superb Lyrebird ML 464114981 recorded by T. and D. Broughton, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo ML 31676591 recorded by A. Spencer, Pied Currawong ML 167655181 recorded by H. Mirando, Laughing Kookaburra ML 233546 recorded by V. Powys, and Eastern Whipbird ML 74536481 recorded by C. Burwell.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2022 BirdNote September 2022
Narrator: Camilo Garzón
ID# SUPLYR-01-2022-09-30 SUPLYR-01