Airdate: Dec 06, 2002
Scientist: Walter Boles
What has tail feathers that resemble an ancient musical instrument and vast vocal repertoire?
ambience: Lyrebird calls
It's an ancient animal, with a remarkable sound. We're listening to the call of Australia's Lyrebird. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Walter Boles is a Collection Manager of birds at the Australian Museum
"The lyre birds look like an Australian group of birds that evolved here. We actually have fossil lyre bird from about fifteen million years ago, so we know they’ve been here quite a long time."
Over the ages, Lyrebirds have evolved to be one of the small group of birds which prefer to travel by land.
"Lyre birds are very good runners. They have very strong legs. They certainly can fly but they’re not strong flyers, so if they’re startled, very suddenly, they will tend to fly away. But usually fairly level. They’re not very good at gaining lots of altitude quickly. But if they have a chance, they can sneak away fairly quietly in the bush without you knowing it."
But when they need, Lyrebirds can make quite a racket.
"With most birds, they make their biggest bouts of noise first thing in the morning. And particularly if it's nice territorial birds like this. You wake up, the first thing you do is basically, you yell to let the neighbors that you’re still there, your territory is still occupied. You also at certain times of year, want to attract the females in. So that’s when most birds are active. They’re basically having breakfast, they haven’t slept, or they’ve slept all night, they haven’t eaten. So everyone’s out, they’re moving. So that seems to be the prime time. And apparently in certain forest types, at that’s the best time for sound actually to travel."
To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.