From car horns to jackhammers to chainsaws, the magnificent lyre bird is famous for its ability to mimic a wide variety of sounds.
And now, Echo, the resident lyrebird at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, has been caught mimicking a crying baby, with deafening screams, rattling tonsils.
The seven-year-old man Lyrebird spoofing might not provide the quietest zoo noise parents would expect.
It’s unclear how the Echo perfected the creepy scream, as the zoo is currently closed amid the ongoing Sydney lockdown.
The supervisor of the bird unit at the Taronga Zoo, Leanne Golebiowski, said Echo began testing fragments of crying a year ago.
“I can only assume he picked it up from our guests. Obviously, he has been working on his ship during the lockdown. But this worries me, as I thought the zoo was a happy place for families to visit. “Golebiowski said.
“There are two other sounds that he makes at the moment he has just learned. One is the sound of an electric drill that is terribly accurate; the second is our fire alarm. It even has the ‘evacuate now’ announcement. “
Dr. Alex Maisey from the University of La Trobe said that wild lyre birds imitate a wide range of sounds as part of their courtship display.
“They must have an incredible memory to be able to reproduce so many sounds,” Maisey said.
“They also have their own particular songs that go with dance moves. If you are a strong male lyre bird that gets a lot of food in your territory, then in theory you could spend a lot of time practicing. [calls] and attract more colleagues. “
Maisey said that Echo likely had to listen to several babies cry to perfect his imitation.
Although lyre birds have been documented to mimic car and chainsaw alarms, Maisey says it is unusual for wild lyre birds to mimic human sounds. “There is no question that some wild populations have human sounds in their repertoire, but it is generally very rare.”
Bird songs are naturally mechanical, which can be mistaken for human origin, Maisey said.
Golebiowski said: “In a zoo, because there are a lot of sounds that they would hear, it would be difficult for these birds not to imitate some of them.”
Male lyre birds have unique repertoires of sounds to use during the breeding season, he said. “They will practice some calls that are new to see if they fit well into that repertoire. I’m not quite sure what the crying baby has that [Echo] find it interesting or fascinating, but I hope it doesn’t make it to the final cut. “
In the wild, older male lyrebirds pass their calls on to younger generations. In the 1930s, a population of lyre birds was introduced to Tasmania from Healesville in Victoria.
For generations, translocated lyre birds continued to imitate the song of eastern whips, which are not present in the island state.
Female lyrebirds are also excellent imitators, but they use their songs for different reasons. “We think they can imitate [many] predatory birds and animals as part of defending their nests, ”Maisey said. “They use it with a little more discretion.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism