Which Animal Is the Best at Mimicry?

The superb lyrebird is one of Australia’s most beloved birds. The likeness of this peacock-like songbird even appears on the Aussie 10-cent coin. Aside from the male’s energetic courtship display during mating season, the lyrebird’s most amazing talent is its ability to mimic just about any sound. In the wild, males can flawlessly imitate about 20 different bird species, and can even re-create the sound of flocks of birds flitting through the forest. Lyrebirds in captivity have been heard imitating many other natural and mechanical sounds, such as the click of a camera shutter, the sound of a chainsaw, dogs barking, babies crying, and blaring car alarms.

Lyre, lyre, pants on fire:

  • The crafty lyrebird’s best imitation may be that of the distinctive laughing kookaburra’s call. Females also sing occasionally, but not with the same gusto as males.

  • Lyrebirds living in Australian rainforests sing throughout the year. They are particularly vocal between June and August, when they sometimes sing for up to four hours a day.

  • Lyrebirds live and roost on the ground and have strong legs and short, rounded wings -- but they’re poor fliers, and rarely take to the air, except for short stints of downhill gliding.

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