Life of Birds and Lyrebirds

Subject: Life of Birds and Lyrebirds
From: Richard Jordan <>
Date: Sun, 3 Jan 1999 09:56:06 +1100 (EST)
Hi everyone 

I am just back from tour, and catching up on the lyrebird news. As luck
would have it, I have been given for Christmas the book 'Life of Birds' by
David Attenborough. 

On Page 213 I find the following:
"------ a skilled ornithologist may be able to recognise the songs of over a
dozen other birds embedded in the lyrebird's incomparable recitals. Some
individuals have territories close to those occupied by human beings and
they incorporate the new sounds they hear coming from across their
frontiers. So they include in their performances accurate imitations of such
things as spot-welding machines, burglar alarms and the camera motor drives."

So it seems that there was no treachery by the Attenborough team - possibly
just inaccurate advice from those they consulted. The film crew probably
just did not realise the significance of the fact that the bird they heard
making mechanical sounds was in captivity. Unfortunately it means that
folklore regarding the mechanical sounds mimicked by lyrebirds will be
perpetuated for evermore now that it is enshrined in both Attenborough print
and Attenborough video. And it was such a shame that the motor drive was
considered more film-worthy than the magnificent bird-mimicry in the song of
the wild bird. And, of course, there still remains the unresolved matter of
the chainsaw!!

To keep such matters in proportion I think we should realise that such
videos and books have a dramatic influence in bringing birds into the lives
of ordinary people - and that this is an overwheming positive. But we
should, perhaps, always be a little sceptical of what we see.


Richard Jordan 
PO Box 4
Jamberoo, NSW 2533, Australia

phone +61 2 42 360542
fax   +61 2 42 360176

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