Echo, a superb lyrebird is now a famous creature because of its ability to mimic different types of sounds, from vehicle horns to chainsaws to jackhammers.

A crying baby
(Photo : Laura Garcia)

The Mimicking Bird

Surprisingly, Echo who is a resident lyrebird at Sydney's Taronga Zoo has been caught completely mimicking a crying child with tonsil rattling, ear-splitting, and screams.

The impersonation of this seven-year-old male lyrebird might not give the most peaceful zoo sound most parents would desire. How the bird was able to perfectly mimic the hair-raising cry isn't clear, as the zoo is presently shut down because of the ongoing lockdown in Sydney.

Leanne Golebiowski who is the unit supervisor of birds at the zoo said about one year ago Echo started trying out crying snippets.

Golebiowski said: "I can only assume that he picked it up from our guests. Obviously he has been working on his craft during lockdown. But this concerns me, as I thought the zoo was a happy place for families to visit!" 

Adding that there are two more sounds Echo makes at the moment and he learned them newly. The first is the power drill sound which is frighteningly accurate and the second is the sound of their fire alarm. Golebiowski said the bird even has the 'evacuate now' announcement mastered.

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Sounds Lyrebird Mimick

La Trobe University's Dr. Alex Maisey said wild lyrebirds closely imitate a diverse array of sounds as part of their courtship display. Maisey said they must possess an extraordinary memory to be capable of reproducing a lot of sounds.

"They also have their own particular songs that go with dance moves. If you're a strong male lyrebird who gets lots of food in your territory, then, in theory, you'd be able to put lots of time into practising [calls] and attract more mates, "Maisey said.

Maisey also said there is a possibility Echo must have listened to so many babies crying in order to make his mimicry perfect.

Although lyrebirds mimicking chainsaws and car alarms have been recorded, Maisey says it is rare for wild lyrebirds to be capable of mimicking human sounds

Some animals have human sounds in their collection, no doubt, but generally, it is very uncommon.

Taronga Zoo
(Photo : Getty Images)

Lyrebirds Pass on Calls to Younger Generation 

Naturally, calls of the birds are mechanical-sounding and can be confused as being of human origin, Maisey said. In a zoo environment, since there are so many sounds the birds would hear, it would be difficult for them not to mimic some of the sounds, Golebiowski said.

In their natural environment, older male lyrebirds transfer calls to younger generations. A population of lyrebirds in the 1930s was brought to Tasmania from Healesville in Victoria.

For generations, the lyrebirds that were transferred kept on mimicking eastern whipbird's whip-crack song, and this song are not heard on the island state.

Female lyrebirds are also good at mimicking, but they make use of their calls for different reasons. 

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