A bird composing his songs as a hip-hop artist | free press

Australian lyre birds surprise researchers with a special peculiarity. The birds collected entire sequences of the sounds of other birds. Until now, they were considered “passive” imitators.


Native to Australia, harpsichords are known for their ability to mimic everything from chainsaws to barking dogs. Researchers at Western Sydney University have now discovered that talented birds compose songs themselves.

In order to seduce the females, males of the brown-backed harpsichord (Menura alberti) “sample” sounds from their environment in their melodies. During the breeding season, they sing their song to show off their prowess for the beloved song. But they also share the composition with their neighbors.

Birds with their own song sequence

Lyrebirds are a bit like hip-hop artists who match the sounds of other birds — and then stitch the sequences together to compose new songs, says research group leader Fiona Backhouse. The study was published in the journal “Proceedings of the Royal Society B” Released.

“We found that each group had a distinct song sequence, with one male singing the same song sequence multiple times during the breeding season with only slight differences,” says Backhouse, who first performed this song analysis. “His neighbors sing very similar sequences of tones, but there are differences between populations.”

As much drama as possible to impress the female

Until now, harpsichords have been seen as “passive” imitators – like a recording device that only reproduces what was previously played. “This research shows that harpsichords actually use their mimicry” to compose “long, complex songs – all in an effort to please their female listeners,” Backhaus notes. The birds tried to put as much drama as possible into their composition and thus distinguish themselves from their specific species.

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Lyrebirds live only in Australia. The long and prominent tail feathers of the males gave it its name. (dpa)

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