Many impressionists stick to mimicking members of their own species. Not the lyrebird—this talented creature can mimic almost any sound it’s exposed to, including those of cameras, chainsaws, and cars.
In the video below, legendary conservationist Sir David Attenborough spotlights the lyrebird for his 1998 BBC series The Life of Birds. The male specimen attempts to attract a mate by spreading his tail feathers and belting out the most complex song possible. It consists of spot-on impersonations of other birds he’s heard around the forest, including the kookaburra. (The lyrebird’s kookaburra impression is so convincing that he manages to get a response from the real thing.)
Eventually, he moves on from imitating his feathered neighbors to recreating sounds produced by people. His impressions include a camera shudder, a camera with a motor drive, and a car alarm. The lyrebird’s impression of a chainsaw is so accurate that it’s easy to imagine a tree being felled just out of the shot.
This footage actually consists of two lyrebirds who were raised in captivity. One of the birds grew up in Australia’s Adelaide Zoo and learned to mimic power tools while the nearby panda enclosure was being built. Though bird calls that sound like chainsaws aren’t common in the Australian rainforests where lyrebirds live, these examples do demonstrate the range that the animal is capable of.
After listening to the lyrebird’s musical act below, see how many bird calls you can identify in this video.
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