Superb Lyrebird Fact File
The male superb lyrebird can be easily distinguished from the female due to the spectacular tail feathers.
Both genders have a body which is brown above with a coppery tint to the wings. On the underside the feathers are grey. The legs and feet are grey or black and feature strong toes for digging in the soil. Their beak is also grey.
Females have a simple tail made up of 14 broad, brown feathers which are long and trail behind the body.
Males are easily noticeable due to the intricate tail used in courtship displays. It includes two solid feathers known as lyrates which are black and brown on top with a silver underside. There are 2 guard plumes which look like a brown ribbon and 12 filamentries which are thin and wiry with bristles off each side.
The total length of a male may be up to 1m (3.3ft) long including their tail which accounts for around half of their length. Females
are around 60cm (1.97ft) long.
The superb lyrebird is a carnivore. Most of their diet is made up of insects, spiders, frogs and other small animals. On occasion they may eat some seeds.
Most of their feeding takes place alone. They will scratch in leaf litter to find insects.
Male 1m (3.3ft)
Female 50cm (1.97ft)
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Australia is the native home of the superb lyrebird. Here they can be found in the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
Superb lyrebirds are mostly found in moist forests and woodlands.
Breeding begins in midwinter (May to August) when the males will start to display for females. The male forms a display mound that is up to 15cm high. Males maintain a home territory and may spread up to 15 display mounds across this. The display involves them raising the tail feathers over their head and singing their song for up to 20 minutes.
The male will mate with multiple females across the breeding season and will not be involved with raising the young.
Females will build their nest which is shaped like a dome and formed out of sticks and lined with plants, feathers or moss. This could be located in a cave, fern, tree stump or on a rock.
Each clutch is typically made up of only one egg. Incubation for the egg is 6 weeks and the chick is cared for by the mother for 6-10 weeks.
Both genders have a tail similar to the female until 3-4 years of age when the tail feathers of the male will start to grow.
Superb lyrebirds are primarily solitary though females and young birds may form a small group.
They are most known for their calls with up to 80% of the sounds they make being mimics of other species. In addition to copying bird calls they will also mimic chainsaws, car alarms and other man made sounds.
In addition to the mimics they do have their own calls including whistles, cackling notes and a shriek.
Most of their day is spent on the forest floor and they make their way to the trees at night to roost.
They are able to fly but typically will only do this if they feel threatened.
Predators and Threats
Their main natural predator is the quoll. Introduced predators such as cats, dogs and foxes also pose a threat.
To avoid predators they will typically run quickly through the undergrowth and while doing so emit a loud alarm call.
Humans affect their population through habitat destruction and hunting for their feathers.
They are also known as the native pheasant though they are not a member of the pheasant family.
Their name comes from the resemblance of the tail feathers to the ancient greek instrument, the lyre.
The superb lyrebird is featured on Australia’s 10c coin.
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CSIRO / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)
John Tann from Sydney, Australia / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
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Pizzey, G., Knight, F., 2014, A Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. 9th ed. Australia. Harper Collins.
Birdlife.org.au. 2020. Superb Lyrebird | Birdlife Australia. [online] Available at: <http://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/superb-lyrebird> [Accessed 15 July 2020].
The Australian Museum. 2020. Superb Lyrebird. [online] Available at:<https://australian.museum/learn/animals/birds/superb-lyrebird/> [Accessed 15 July 2020].
2017. Our Wildlife Fact Sheet Superb Lyrebird. 1st ed. [ebook] Melbourne: Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). Available at:
<https://www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0027/91395/Superb-Lyrebird.pdf> [Accessed 15 July 2020].
NSW Environment, Energy and Science. 2020. Lyrebirds. [online] Available at:
<https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/animals-and-plants/native-animals/native-animal-facts/lyrebirds> [Accessed 15 July 2020].
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