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Inhabiting Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges, lyrebirds are noted for the astounding quality of their mimicry. Songs of other birds, sounds of native mammals, interspersed with their own song, may be heard a kilometre away. Officially named the Superb Lyrebird (Menura novae-hollandiae), the species is slightly larger than a bantam, dark brown above, mid-grey below, with coppery brown wings. The male has a long tail of sixteen feathers, the centre pair being narrowly webbed. Twelve filamentaries, black above and silvery white below, are bordered by white lyre-shaped feathers with chestnut notches and black tips. Before efforts at protection, these feathers were often to be found mounted on gold-framed velvet and hung in fashionable Melbourne homes. Unusually large feet aid lyrebirds when scratching out their food in forest litter. Males sing with their tail fanned horizontally over their head and body, on slightly mounded small earth clearings within their territory. The domed nest of sticks and fern fibre is lined with feathers to insulate the single egg or chick against the cold of the winter breeding season. Threatened by fox and dog predation, the lyrebird population has stabilised following the 1987 consolidation of the Dandenong Ranges National Park, and tough shire animal control regulations introduced in 1991.

Marcus Gottsch