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Lyrebirds - Identification And Behavior

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Linear expansivity to Macrocosm and microcosmLyrebirds - Identification And Behavior, Reproduction

Identification and behavior

Both species have a reddish brown back, pale grey underbody, and a russet slash down the throat. Their huge feet have four long, unwebbed, clawed toes—three pointing forward and one backward. The legs are designed so that, as the bird squats, the tendons draw tight, curling the A male superb lyre bird (Menura superba) in Australia. Here the bird is in the rainforest foliage though it is generally seen on the floor of the rainforest where it finds its food. Photograph by John R. Brownlie. National Audubon Society Collection/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.

toes around the branch, holding the bird secure even while asleep. The superb lyrebird is the larger of the two species, with a more elegant tail. Females are smaller than males, their tails shorter, and they lack lyre feathers.

Normally, as with the peacock, the male's tail trails behind the body. However, when courting a mate he performs an artistic dance, spreading his tail like a fan, raising it, then swooping it over his back until his entire body and head disappear beneath a magnificent mass of silvery-plumed feathers. As he dances, he may hop from foot to foot or prance forward, sideways, and backward in a repetitive pattern, all the time singing gloriously and slipping in some mimicry. The superb male performs his dances on mounds of soft earth about 3 ft (1 m) in diameter and several inches high. Scratching, raking, and tramping with his clawed feet, he creates a clearing, forming the mound in the middle. Up to a dozen mounds may be found in one male's territory, but each male seems to have one or two favorites which he uses frequently. The Prince Albert lyrebird does not build mounds, but displays from the ground or sometimes from a log.

Often, the female does not even see the male's fascinating dance, although sometimes the superb female ventures briefly onto the mound where the male approaches her, covering her with his tail which he vibrates rapidly while singing beautifully. Sometimes their beaks may touch, but soon she leaves, scurrying off into the bush.

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