Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps

Family MENURIDAE Lesson, 1828

Compiler and date details

R. Schodde & I.J. Mason, CSIRO Australian National Wildlife Collection, Canberra, ACT, Australia; updated and upgraded by N.W. Longmore, Museum Victoria, 2006


The menurids, or lyrebirds, are a small monophyletic family with two species in one genus endemic to Australia and restricted to the central east and south east of the continent (Schodde & Mason 1999). A population was translocated to Tasmania in the 1930s, a State from which it was previously unknown. There are four known ultrataxa; monotypic, Menura alberti, and M. novaehollandiae with three ultrataxa. They are among the largest of the songbirds. Well-known characters of the family include the elaborate singing displays of the male and the mimicry included in the song repertoire. Females too are noted mimics although not as prolific. Much of their singing ability stems from the unusual structure of their syrinx.

Movement is restricted to wandering dispersal of young away from their parental territory and adult movement into adjoining territories during the breeding season. Both species share similar feeding behaviour scratching with their large claws and then probing the ground litter for invertebrate prey.

The lyrebirds occupy habitats that vary from subtropical and temperate rainforest, and wet and dry sclerophyll forests. Here they are primarily terrestrial although they are arboreal when roosting often moving to great heights. Pairs and single birds are normally noted, it is unusual for them to be found in small numbers. Small gathering occur during pre-breeding encounters or at times when outside pressures force them together.

Cooler winter months are selected for breeding, the adult female constructing a large domed stick nest unaided by the male. Such nests are placed in a variety of locations, including rock ledges, crowns of tree ferns and tree stumps. A single egg is laid in the nest. The egg is heavily marked, having a base colour of either brown or grey the surface of which is covered in its entirety by dark grey and purplish umber spots, dots and streaks.



'Other characteristics of lyrebirds are their broad wings with high numbers of primaries (11) and secondaries (13-14 - Stephan 1965; Morlion 1985), their taxaspidean tarsi, their unmodified oscinine stapes in the ear, their large free lachrymals, and their furcula which, though completely ossified, lacks a hypocleideum (from Beddard 1898; Sibley 1970; Feducia 1975; Bock 1985). Like corvoids, honeyeaters and bower-birds, they have a single, deep trabeculated fossa at the head of the humerus (Bock 1962), and, according to cytochrome b sequences, are aligned phylogenetically with the first two groups (Espinosa & Cracraft 1994).'


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
12-Feb-2010 (import)