Mimicry by Magpie/Lyrebirds

To: Carl Clifford <>
Subject: Mimicry by Magpie/Lyrebirds
From: Chris Charles <>
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2007 21:53:37 +1000
The thread regarding Richard Attenborough's footage of the Lyrebird reminds me of the period I lived in Brunei, Borneo during the late 70's & early 80's.

Sir RA based several of his episodes of his then current wildlife programme on the tropical rainforest. The flying snake & the weaver ant were two species found in Brunei that were to feature. The final footage of the weaver ant episode showed RA soaked in with sweat crawling through the mangrove swamp mud at night & breathlessly whispering to the camera that at last the long ordeal was finally rewarded as just ahead was the fabled weaver ant nest. The reality was that the production team had put a lead light over the back fence of my colleagues house & the action happened within 10 metres of all the airconditioned comforts of home.

The flying snake was captured by an Iban hunter in the hinterland forest & was brought to town for the film sequence. It was taken out to the airfield (where else) where there was a water tower & the cameras were set up. The foreshortening effect of the telephotos brought the distant background of trees close to the action & when all set the flying snake was thrown off the water tower & its 'flight' followed by the cameras. However it did not do its body flattening aerofoil gliding thing but fell to the grass heavily where it was recaptured. Several attempts were made without any improvement & the snake was looking a bit stunned. Finally someone conned a weather balloon from the met man & a radio controlled release was organised for the attached snake. The balloon reached about 250m before the snake was released in a do-or-die effort. The snake dropped like a stone until perhaps it realised that it was it that had to do-or-die & finally assumed the gliding position. The final footage showed the snake gliding within a rainforest setting. However these are the production shortcuts that a generation of conservation consciousness is foundered on.

What was the truth of the chainsaw Superberb Lyrebird call? Hard to know from the you-tube clip but recently at Patonga on NSW Central Coast I was watching an LB in a gully above a car park. The LB went through his repertoire of Kookaburra, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Currarong & Whipbird calls filling the gully with his vibrant voice. He stopped & raked through the leaf mulch & shortly after a large dog started barking in the carpark. The LB stopped & listened & when the dog had finished the LB commenced rehearsing "Woof Woof, Woof Woof" quietly under his breath. So not sure I see a distinction between mechanical & other sounds not normally part of the traditional environment.

Chris Charles

On 09/04/2007, at 10:36 AM, Carl Clifford wrote:

So, does that mean that the David Attenbourough footage of a Lyrebird imitating a camera shutter release. motor drive and a chain-saw was a fake ?
Carl Clifford

On 09/04/2007, at 12:24 AM, Syd Curtis wrote:

"May I repeat Norman's plea: If anyone has a recording of a lyrebird in the wild, imitating mechanical sounds, I would be grateful to hear from them."




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