Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Superb Lyrebird – or is it?



This is what a lyrebird looks and sounds like. If you prefer to see the same clip with lower picture quality, but in David Attenborough's well modulated tones, see the clip at the bottom.

I forgot to mention it yesterday, but just before we got to Tahune, a Superb Lyrebird crossed the road in front of us – a rare sight as they are normally very shy. The remarkable thing about the Lyrebird is its ability to mimic other sounds. I was telling Miss Ten that the last one I saw - also in this area, on my first walk to Adamson’s Falls, sounded like a chainsaw and she said, “Is that why they call them Liar birds?” You'll see why they call them Lyre birds when you have looked at one of the clips. For information about their habits, feeding and breeding click here

Lyrebirds are not native to Tasmania but were initially introduced from the mainland by Lady Franklin in the 1800’s. In the 1930’s and 40’s fearing mainland extinction due to habitat loss  and the presence of European predators such as foxes,  several more  were released near Hastings- just south of here,  and Mount Field.  Beautiful as they are, as with most introductions e.g. rabbits, cane toads and blackberries, there is a downside. 

At first  Lyrebirds seemed to have fitted in rather well, possibly occupying the niche which used to be occupied by the small Tasmanian emu which became extinct  soon after white settlement  (No, the settlers didn’t necessarily hunt them to death. It is now thought that the rats which came with them, may have eaten the eggs), but now the 22 birds which were introduced by1949 have grown to an estimated 8000 birds and have extended their range all over the state. Their habit of scratching up huge mounds for nests now threatens other species - tearing out seedlings, removing the insects and preventing regeneration.  It is in the leaf litter and moss that the seeds for our rare species germinate and once loosened, they are easily washed away.  This is why some of our beautiful wilderness waterfalls will be very slow to recover after recent floods.

Because of their history on the mainland, Lyrebirds are still protected, but the day may come when Tasmania may have to consider culling them. This is the problem when you live on a small rock which is in fact a floating Ark.  It is also why we have to be s -o -o -o -o careful with what can be brought in, so please don’t complain when we ask you to ditch you fruit and vegetables on entry. Every introduction, even a microscopic one, poses new risks.

Enjoy our lyrebirds while you can.

Here's David Attenborough’s English version of the above clip




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