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common name for Australian passerine birds named for the appearance of the tail plumage of the male superb lyrebird, Menura novaehollandiae, when displayed during courtship. There are only two species. The superb lyrebird, about the size of a rooster, is brown above and ash below. It has a long, pointed bill, a longish neck, and large, strong legs and feet with which it runs swiftly. The Albert's lyrebird is smaller. Lyrebirds are shy, solitary forest and scrubland dwellers. They seldom fly; at night they roost in trees. Their diet consists of insects, worms, and land crustaceans and mollusks. The frame of the lyre, which develops when the male is three years old, is formed by the two long (2 ft/60 cm), curved outer tail feathers; the "strings" between are lacy white quills. The lyre position of the tail is assumed only fleetingly during the courtship dance, which is performed on a mound of earth scraped together by the male. This dance is accompanied by elaborate vocalizing, the birds being excellent mimics as well as distinctive singers. The female lays her single egg in a bulky domed nest built on or near the ground. The lyrebird appears on the seals and stamps of Australia. Lyrebirds are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Menuridae.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



any one bird of the family Menuridae of the order Passeriformes. The body and tail lengths together measure 75–130 cm; the wings are rounded. The tail of the males has two uniquely curved feathers that resemble a lyre (hence the name “lyrebird”), 12 lacey plumes, and 2 ribbon-like feathers. The plumage is loose and brown-gray, and the legs are strong, with blunt claws. There is one genus, Menura, with two species—the superb lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) and Prince Albert’s lyrebird (M. alberti). Distributed in southeastern Australia, these birds were imported to Tasmania in 1934. Lyrebirds live in hiding in dense forests. They sing well, mimicking the songs of other birds and various other sounds. The breeding period begins in the fall (March-April), when the males engage in mating games. The roofed nests are built solely by the females on the ground, in the clefts of rocks, or in trees. In June or July (rarely later) the female lays one egg, the size of a hen’s egg, which she incubates for approximately 45 days. The nestling has sparse black down on its back. The lyrebird feeds on insects, mollusks, and seeds, which are gathered from the ground by scratching the forest floor.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Australian bird; one of the most famous mimic species. [Ornithology: Sparks, 116]
See: Mimicry
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


either of two pheasant-like Australian birds, Menura superba and M. alberti, constituting the family Menuridae: during courtship displays, the male spreads its tail into the shape of a lyre
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005