I heard a robin in the distance,
the first I’d heard for a many thousand years,
methought, whose note I shall not forget for many a
thousand more, – the same sweet powerful song as of yore.
Henry David Thoreau
Lyrebird, you have music in your makeup and mimicry in your soul.
I am blown away by your gift for hearing noises in your surrounds and
composing them into random melodies of story and song! You are truly blessed –
your voice and vocabulary is something to behold.
I would like to say that when you strike out with your talents at times of mating, this is when
you are at your best. You are randy and vibrant and you have purpose. You strut and prance
and flap around with the filaments and fronds of your tail-feathers shaking and quivering over
your head. And the world is a better place when you sing your song.
Of your beautiful tail plumage I think your two lyre feathers are the finest. They splay out to form
the shape of the string instrument by which you are named, their rufous and silver bands shimmer
together hypnotically. There is no irony that the lyre is associated with classical antiquity
and mythology as it is with your name, because you yourself command reverence in such romantic
One day I listened to you sing your songs. Look a lyrebird and you showed yourself and made a
chorus of your forests’ finest singers and had me quizzical about how such a group of different birds
whose calls are so familiar could all resonate from the same location under the spur on which I sat.
I creaked with your black cockatoo, chorused with your currawong and noted the subtle intonations
of your king parrot. I laughed so infectiously with your kookaburra my cheeks began to spasm. The
whipbirds must have been mating in your woods too. I assumed this because of your rendition
of male and female singing their antiphonal duet, as they often do when in love. I also heard another
bird in your mix which I didn’t recognise: a harmonic, metallic tune. Was that you singing your own
song? Then you went around in a medley of no set order, over and over. I knew all those random
noises were you. And so utterly perfect were they all.
You had your very own tea party of mimicry and melody on the floor of the valley below.
Lyrebird, you had me speechless and spellbound. I cried at the beauty like a romantic at the opera.
I asked myself why a being of such exquisite voice as yourself needs to mimic the songs of those
around you. Like humans with many masks, are you hiding behind something? No, I think you are
not – I know you host such a performance to attract a mate; it is innate in you. What you are also
doing is taking-in your environs and telling me about them. You are singing about you; you are telling
me your story.
You had me pondering how and when I sing my song and tell my story. When do I come out from
behind my mask? We are all products of our own environment, aren’t we Lyrebird? We work with
what we’ve got. Please know I took my mask off the morning you shared your song with me, how
could I leave it on?
Lyrebird, outside of our own experiences together, I’d like to tell you also that you’re quite an icon
to many of us humans; though not as a sports mascot or macho symbol, and nor should you be.
You are extensively represented in our art and literature; you appear on the ten-cent coins in
our wallets and purses and in the stamps on our letters, both in pence and cents. But above
all for us humans, you are a proud ambassador for your Australian bush home. You are a
creature of delicate refinement in an old land of sharp angles and stark light, of wild
elements and extreme climates, of great natural diversity albeit in ever-shrinking
I know you won’t care for any of these sentiments as long as
you’re left to go about your business without hindrance.
And that’s okay as far as this human’s concerned,
just so long as you know I think you’re pretty