Mimicry by Lyrebird

To: Peter Madvig <>, <>
Subject: Mimicry by Lyrebird
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2007 21:33:50 +1000
Is there anyone in b-aus with contacts in the NP & WS?  If it was in a Parks
Service visitor centre, there would surely be documentation?

Is it just coincidence of another event, or could it have been flute instead
of Oboe?

Neville Fenton was the N P Ranger at Dorrigo for a number of years.  He
introduced me to the Dorrigo "flute-playing" lyrebirds:

Superb chick raised in captivity on a farm.  Couldn't hear other lyrebirds.
Learned to sing by copying the farmer's son practising his flute.  Learnt
melodies from the Keel Row, the Mosquito's Dance, and the diatonic scale.
Later released back into the wild, and his "flute" singing was adopted by
the population generally.  That was in the 1920s.

By '78 when I visited them, the Keel Row had disappeared.  Vestiges of the
Mosquito's Dance seemed still present.  No diatonic scale, but a series of
notes of rising pitch that could have been the scale, deteriorated in
cultural transmission down the years.  The sound still had a remarkable
'flute' quality, different to normal Superbs, but of course the mimicry of
other birds was accurate and not flute-like.

I know Neville had taped them, and presumably would have given the Parks
Service a copy.



> From: "Peter Madvig" <>
> Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2007 12:31:01 +1000
> To: <>
> Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Mimicry by Lyrebird
> A quick addition to this topic, afore it 'croaks'-
> I recall in the '70s at the Kalkari (?) visitors' centre near Bobbin Head,
> Ku-rin-gai Nat. Park, northern Sydney, listening to a recording of a local
> Lyrebird going through the scales of an oboe! It was supposed to have been
> passed on to the next generation, if I remember rightly?
> Any takers?
> Regards,
> Peter Madvig

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