Lyre Bird, a large tenuirostral passerine bird, of the family certhidae or creepers, and subfamily menurinm or wrens, according to Gray; and of the family eriodoridae of Cabanis.
Lyre Bird (Menura superba).
« Only two species of this singular bird are described, both natives of Australia, constituting the genus menura (Davies). The common lyre bird (M. superba, Dav.) from the form of the legs has been placed among the gallinaceous tribes, and its name of wood pheasant indicates its general resemblance to these; it has also been ranked with the hornbills among the coni-rostres, and by others in the neighborhood of the thrushes; but it seems most nearly allied to the wren family. The length is about 43 in., of which the tail is 25; the bill is rather more than an inch long, resembling that of a peacock, strong, keeled, broad at the base, and of a black color; the nostrils are long and narrow, in a fossa near the middle of its length; the wings moderate and rounded; the body about the size of that of a pheasant; tail very long, and of a singular form, differing in the two sexes; tarsi long and robust, covered with broad scales in front; toes and claws long and strong, fitted for scratching; orbital region naked.
The general color above is brownish black, and grayish brown below; the head slightly crested, and the throat rufous; there are three kinds of feathers in the tail, which are long and 16 in number; 12 have long slender shafts, with delicate filaments more and more distant toward the end; the middle two feathers, longer than the rest, are pointed at the end and barbed only on the inner edge; the external two feathers are broad, growing wider to the ends, and curving outward like an elongated S, the two resembling much the outline of the ancient lyre; the curved part is black with a narrow white border, and pearly beneath with bright rufous spots on the inner web. They are shy, running rapidly among the brush wood, and scratch for slugs, beetles, and insects, generally among the fallen leaves; they fly but little. They live in pairs in rocky places overgrown with bushes; their motions are graceful, the males strutting and displaying the tail feathers like a peacock; the voice is very varied and pleasing, especially in the morning and evening; the nest is made of roots and moss, shaped like a basin and roofed; the eggs are said to be only two in number.
The second species (M. Alberti, Gould) is smaller, with a shorter tail, and with the outer feathers shorter than those succeeding them internally. They represent the rasorial type of the passeres.