The secret life of female lyrebirds

Victoria Austin is giving a presentation about females Lyrebirds and their vocalisations.

By Derek Schlennstedt

Victoria Austin wants to move female lyrebirds out of the category of ‘a reward for a male for making the sound of a shrike thrush and shaking his booty’ to rock stars in their own right.

The Sydney-based PHD student has been collaborating with the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Research Group over several years and is visiting the Dandenong Ranges for a special community presentation about female lyrebirds on 19 September.

Ms Austin is studying the calls of female superb lyrebirds and though it has long been known that male lyrebirds are great mimics, she said females are also great songstresses.

I do a lot of my work in the blue mountains, but the Sherbrook Lyrebird Research group have a group of banded birds and that’s really valuable for me because I have years of records on individual birds.

“I’ve been collaborating with them for a few years and so the talk is a way of thanking the community, and also to meet a lot of people in the community who I know love lyrebirds and value nature.”

Ms Austin said the presentation will cover a range of topics about lyrebirds, particularly how the female vocalisations differ from the males.

“What’s fascinating is that they use their vocalisations functionally. So, for example; when confronted by a predator they will sue mimicry more than their own vocalisations, while males use mimicry to attract a mate.”

“The aim is to shed some light on females and put them in the spotlight.”

“I’ll share some of the data I’ve been collecting, videos of the birds in their natural environment, interesting recordings of the mimicry that they use in response to predators, some in-field experiments, some of my preliminary results, and of course some lyrebirds chick photos.”

The talk will take place on 19 September at the Monbulk Hub, 21 Main Road, Monbulk.

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