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Lyrebirds: Menuridae

Physical Characteristics

The male superb lyrebird is one of the world's more spectacular examples of birdlife, with his majestic tail of sixteen fanned, silver feathers that resembles the ancient Greek instrument called a lyre. The bird is dark brown on the top of its body, light brown below, and rufous (reddish) on its throat. The female of the species is smaller and has similar coloring, with a broadly webbed, reddish tail.

The male Albert's lyrebird is less colorful and smaller than the superb species. It possesses the same dramatic fanned tail, but without the outer lyre-shaped feathers. Both sexes are a rich chestnut color.

Adult lyrebirds range from 33 to 38.5 inches (84 to 98 centimeters)—about the size of a rooster—making them one of the biggest passerines (PASS-ur-eenz), perching birds. Male and female lyrebirds have small heads, long legs, tails, and necks, and large feet with powerful claws. Because of their weak, short wings, they seldom fly. Lyrebirds have short, sharp, slightly down-turned bills that they use for picking prey out of leaf litter.

Although they have their own species-specific songs, lyrebirds are natural mimics, much like the American mockingbird. They can copy almost any clear, loud sound, such as chainsaws, horns, guns, crying babies, shouts, trains, alarms, and many bird and animal sounds. The superb lyrebird is generally recognized as the more proficient singer of the two species. Both transmit their songs from generation to generation. Males of both species sing most in the Australian winter months of June and July.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsLyrebirds: Menuridae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Lyrebirds And People, Conservation Status, Albert's Lyrebird (menura Alberti): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET