Lyrebird Chain-saw Mimicry

To: Chris Sanderson <>, <>
Subject: Lyrebird Chain-saw Mimicry
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2007 22:57:35 +1000
Thanks Chris,

      I guess the poor bird certainly heard chain-saws often enough if
adjacent to a clear-felled area.

What time of the year was it?   It would  be a most interesting development
if it were included in the breeding season song - approx. May-August.  As
I've indicated, outside the breeding season they are likely to include
sounds they don't normally do, but not on any sort of regular basis such
that one could go there with a recorder and have a reasonable chance of
getting the sound.



Warning: Persons without a sense of humour should not read the note appended
at the end of this.      You have been warned!

From: "Chris Sanderson" <>
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2007 14:17:17 +1000
To: "Syd Curtis" <>, 
Cc: "Birding-aus (E-mail)" <>
Subject: Mimicry by Magpie

Hi Syd,

I'm not sure if you'd count this as in the wild, but I was cycling to
Hastings Cave in Tasmania a couple of years ago and as I was passing through
a patch of clearfelled and burned forest (the forestry industry in Tassie's
standard practice for old-growth I believe) I heard a chainsaw at the edge
of it.  And then a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, then other birds, then more
chainsaw, and so on.  It was a Superb Lyrebird, feral but wild.  I'll have
to go through my grandmother's lyrebird recordings to see if hers did any
mechanical noises, but the Tassie one is the only time I've heard a noise
clearly of human origin from a lyrebird.  Great Bowerbirds on the other hand
do a fantastic imitation of human speech at the Broome Bird Observatory.

Carl, I believe the Lyrebirds that imitate the shutter release and motor
drive of a camera are in captivity at Healesville Sanctuary in Melbourne's
north-west outskirts.  So no, the Attenborough footage isn't faked, but the
birds aren't wild either.  It doesn't take away from how fantastic they are
as mimics though. 


The ultimate in lyrebird Mimicry!

This goes back to the time before Premier Wran converted Washpool State
Forest to National Park.  Hardwood logging was in progress.  (Washpool has
the best stand of Tallowwood and Yellow Stringy that I've encountered.)  It
used to be common commercial forestry practice to mark for cutting, some
large over-mature trees, to make way for new trees.  This, even though the
old tree was likely to be too hollow to be worth sending to the mill.  But
such old hollow trees often had enough sound wood to make railway sleepers.

So there's this sleeper cutter camped out in Washpool, splitting sleepers
out of these duds.  Early morning, and he's boiling the billy when way down
in the gully he hears the sound of a chain-saw being started.    Brrrrt
...Brrrrt ...Brrrrt ...   Strange, he thinks, there's no-one else camped out
here and I didn't hear a vehicle arrive.

Brrrrt ...Brrrrt ...Brrrrt ...    Then the motor catches and roars into
life.  Fairly screams ... and keeps on screaming.  The throttle is obviously
jammed.    Crikey, he thinks, if he doesn't stop that it'll blow up.  And
sure enough there's an explosion, then silence.

"I'd better see if I can help", and he notes where the sound appeared to
have come from - near a tree with a large dead branch stub.  Pushes his way
down through the bracken and undergrowth ... and comes to a lyrebird mound -
covered in a mess of feathers and exploded lyrebird!

(Well, I did warn you!  :-)


To unsubscribe from this mailing list, 
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU