Yesterday I met Nova.
Nova is a lyrebird, named for their lyre-shaped tail feathers but, in an astounding display of synchronicity (that works only in English), better known for being liars. Go figure.
When I say I met him, I mean I watched him attempting to woo his lady lyrebird. I've never seen a lyrebird in the flesh before, so I was ready to be impressed simply by his presence and his pretty, pretty tail. But his courtship ritual displayed that this brown bird is, at least in personality, adorably and laughably vibrant.
It's early in the breeding season, so his lady lyrebird was blithely, determinedly oblivious to him, forcing him to ever grander and more desperate measures to attract her attention. It started with him scratching up some lovely nesting material for her, since that's what she was concentrating on — but she simply ignored or accepted said material as the whim took her, and went on with her own foraging.
Throughout it all he tried every single noise in his repertoire — including kookaburras laughing (always three at once), the call of a whipbird and a bellbird, something that sounded remarkably akin to a young child crying "Wow!", and a noise I can only describe as the sound effects of Space Invaders.1
But lady lyrebird was less impressed by his vocal abilities than the small crowd of humans, so in the end he resorted to fanning out his tail, jumping on top of tree stump (still no reaction) and finally, tail still fanned out and an astonishing array of space invaders noises coming from his throat, literally dashing in dizzying laps around her.
The photo above is of him running, around and around and around, calling Look at me! Look at me! in every way he knew how.
Poor Nova. She didn't even glance up once. Boy's got to do more than sing for his supper, apparently.
- The keeper said this noise was, as far as they could work out — it's hard to be sure with a bird known for its mimicry — not mimicry at all but possibly his natural call. [↩]