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Menuridae

Menuridae (lyrebirds; class Aves, order Passeriformes) A family of large, brown birds which have spectacular long tail feathers, most of them fine and filamentous, with two long central feathers, and two curved outer feathers in Menura novaehollandia (superb lyrebird). They inhabit forest and scrub, feed on small invertebrates, and build a large, domed nest on the ground. There are two species, confined to eastern Australia.

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lyrebirds

lyrebirds See MENURIDAE.

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Lyrebirds

Lyrebirds

Identification and behavior

Reproduction

Resources

Lyrebirds are named for the males magnificent tail, which spreads in a fanlike display, resembling a lyre, an ancient Greek stringed instrument. The males body is little longer than 12 in (30.5 cm), but the tail may be longer than 16 in (40.5 cm). The only two species of lyrebird in the world are indigenous to a strip of rugged, hilly bushland along the east coast of the Australian states of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. The superb lyrebird (Menura superba ) and Alberts lyrebird (M. alberti ) belong to the genus Menura (from the Greek meaning mighty tail) of the Menuridae family in the order Passeriformes (perching birds), the largest and most diverse bird order in the world. Lyrebirds have one of the most beautiful singing voices in the bird kingdom. But apart from their songs and unique calls, they are excellent mimics, copying not only the songs of other birds, but all types of environmental noises like chain saws, lawn mowers, tractors, human voices, and whistles. Although both lyrebirds have declined in abundance, they are not considered endangered species.

Identification and behavior

Both species have a reddish brown back, pale gray 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 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 males 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 males territory, but each male seems to have one or two favorites that 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 males 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.

Reproduction

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 caregiver 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 under-feathers 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 egg of Alberts lyrebirds 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.

Resources

BOOKS

Forshaw, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Birds. 2nd ed. New York: Academic Press, 1998.

Higgins, P.J., M. Peter, and W.K. Steele, eds. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 5 Tyrant-flycatchers to Chats. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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

Marie L. Thompson

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Lyrebirds

Lyrebirds

Lyrebirds are named for the male's magnificent tail, which spreads in a fan-like display, resembling a lyre, an ancient Greek stringed instrument. The male's body is little longer than 12 in (30.5 cm), but the tail may be longer than 16 in (40.5 cm). The only two species of lyrebird in the world are indigenous to a strip of rugged, hilly bushland along the east coast of the Australian states of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. The superb lyrebird (Menura superba) and Prince Albert lyrebird (M. alberti) belong to the genus Menura (from the Greek meaning "mighty tail") of the suborder Oscines and the order Passeriformes (perching birds ), the largest and most diverse bird order in the world. Lyrebirds have one of the most beautiful singing voices in the bird kingdom. But apart from their songs and unique calls, they are excellent mimics, copying not only the songs of other birds, but all types of environmental noises like chain saws, lawn mowers, tractors, human voices, and whistles. Although both lyrebirds have declined in abundance, they are not considered endangered species .


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

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.

Reproduction

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.

Resources

books

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

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"Lyrebirds." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Lyrebirds." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 23, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lyrebirds

"Lyrebirds." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved September 23, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lyrebirds

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

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http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.