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An unusual phenomenon in the bird kingdom, lyrebirds nest in winter, laying their solitary egg in June or July. The female is the nest-builder, egg-incubator, and care giver to the hatched chicks. She constructs a bulky home from twigs, dried bracken fern, moss, leaves, and bark over a framework of thin, flexible roots and pliable bark, leaving a single side entrance, and lining the inside with soft underfeathers she plucks from her own body. She may snuggle her nest in a hollow on a rocky ledge, in the cavity of a tall stump, or among tree roots. In locations where humans and domestic animals pose a threat, nests may be found high in a tree between forking branches.

The egg of the superb lyrebird may vary in color from a light gray to a deep purplish brown with gray streaks and spots. The Prince Albert lyrebird's egg is usually gray with darker gray spots. Chicks hatch naked with their eyes closed, and stay in the nest until they are well-feathered. Their mother continues to feed them for some time after they leave the nest, which is about six weeks after hatching. Chicks in high nests take up to two weeks longer to leave the nest, allowing time for their wings to develop. Even as adults, lyrebirds are not strong flyers, jumping and flapping from ground to branch and gliding from their sleeping place high in a tree back to the ground. They spend most of their time scratching in underbrush and digging into decaying logs in search of insects, worms, grubs, and snails. Except in protected areas of natural habitat, these shy, wary little birds are seldom seen, but their loud, clear voices can be heard at a considerable distance. During the summer (December through February), their singing and miming is mostly confined to daybreak and dusk. As autumn approaches, they can be heard throughout the day, particularly the male, as he begins building new display mounds and repairing old ones for his upcoming courting period.



Forshaw, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Academic Press, 1998.

Watts, Dave. The Best of Australian Birds. New York: New Holland: 2001.

Marie L. Thompson

Additional topics

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