Listen to a lyrebird mimic the cry of a baby

By Australian Geographic 6 September 2021
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One Taronga Zoo employee got quite the shock when the cries of a baby broke out in the closed zoo. But it wasn’t quite what they expected.

“I was confused, as the zoo was closed and hearing a cry seriously panicked me,” says Unit Supervisor of Taronga’s Australian Fauna Bird Department Leanne Golebiowski. “I was trying to find where it was coming from and if they were okay.

“It wasn’t until Echo started another call I looked up and realised it was him. A big sigh of relief after I realised it wasn’t a real human baby crying.”

Echo is Taronga’s seven-year-old lyrebird, who was recently filmed mimicking the ear-piercing cry of a baby.

The scarily accurate call took a long time for him to perfect. “Echo started to show snippets of this call about a year ago but hadn’t quite perfected it at that point. 

“We have lots of tour groups that come past his exhibit and obviously lots of visitors that stop by to see him mimic and display when we were open, so I can only assume that he picked it up from our guests. 

“Obviously, he has been working on his craft during lockdown 2.0.”

Lyrebirds are known for their incredible ability to mimic all kinds of sounds, however, the mimicking of human sounds is rare.

“In a zoo setting, because there is such an abundance of sounds that they would hear, it would be hard for these birds not to mimic some of them. 

“All lyrebirds are individual with the sounds they will mimic and they create their own repertoire of these sounds to use during the breeding season to attract a mate. So, they will practice some calls that are new to see if this will fit well into that repertoire. 

“I’m not too sure what it is about the baby crying that he finds interesting or fascinating, but I hope it won’t make the final cut!”

According to Leanne, Echo has quite the repertoire. “There are two other sounds that he makes at the moment which he has learnt. One is the sound of a power drill which is scarily accurate, the second is our fire alarm. He even has the ‘evacuate now’ announcement down pat.”