Re: the ultimate in Lyrebird mimicry

To: <>, "Syd Curtis" <>
Subject: Re: the ultimate in Lyrebird mimicry
From: "Michael Miller" <>
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 09:43:47 +1100
Captive Lyrebirds at Healesville are very good at imitating mechanical
sounds. Electric drills, the squeak of a door hinge and the warning "bip" of
a truck in reverse are the three that come to mind .

A number of years ago there was quite a bit of construction work being done
in the aviary, presumably the bird learnt the drill sound from this work. Do
they need continued exposure to the sounds they imitate?  The Healesville
birds don't perform the drill sound much anymore.Tasmanian birds may hear
interstate bird calls from other male lyrebirds in the area?

One handraised orphan ,who's name was "Chook", learnt to incorporate his own
name in his display song.

Michael Miller

-----Original Message-----
From: Syd Curtis <>
To:  <>
Date: Friday, November 21, 1997 2:17 AM
Subject: the ultimate in Lyrebird mimicry

>Paul Osborn, Research Scientist, BHP Research - Newcastle Labs, has
>(20 Nov 1997):
><What isn't explained in Syd's message is that some degree of song
><learning from the local environment must happen otherwise we wouldn't
><have Lyrebirds imitating chainsaws, trail bikes and (as I have heard in
><Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve) rifle shots.
>In over 30 years of tape-recording and listening to lyrebirds (both
>species) neither Norman Robinson, who was the principal CSIRO scientist
>studying them, nor I, have ever heard a lyrebird imitate a mechanical sound
>of human origin.  (They do imitate the noise of a beak being tapped on a
>branch, the rustle of feathers and the flapping of wings.)  I'd be most
>interested to hear any tape-recording of a lyrebird imitating a mechanical
>sound.  They certainly would be able to if they wanted to, and if it
>happens it's most likely to be outside the breeding season which lasts
>roughly May-August.  Their breeding season vocal behaviour is now well
>known and does not include such sounds.
>There was a story I once heard, back in the days when Washpool, back behind
>Grafton, was still a State Forest.  A sleeper-cutter, is boiling his billy
>for an early morning cup of tea when he hears the sound of a chain-saw
>being started. That's funny, he thinks, there's no-one cutting up here but
>me.  Brrrt,  brrrrt, brrrt,... then it fires and the motor starts to
>scream.  Crikey, he thinks, the throttle's jammed.  If he doesn't do
>something, it'll blow up.  And sure enough, right then there's an explosion
>and silence.  I'd better check and see if he's all right, he thinks.
>He carefully notes where the sound seemed to be coming from - near an old
>tallow-wood with a broken top way down in the gully.  Pushes his way down
>through the thick bush and comes on a lyrebird mound .... covered in fresh
>blood and guts and feathers - the ultimate in lyrebird mimicry!
>It seems likely that reports of lyrebirds mimicking axe-blows etc., are
>equally imaginary.  But just maybe ...
>Syd Curtis at Hawthorne.
>H Syd Curtis

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