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The Lyrebird’s Dance

January 2, 2014

The superb lyrebird of Australia combines its songs with specific dance moves to create an elaborate courtship ritual.

Transcript

A male superb lyrebird performs his courtship dance and song. (Alex Maisey)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Dancing with the lyrebirds. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Lyrebird song)

This might sound like a shoot-’em up arcade game, but it’s really an Australian bird serenading a female. Superb lyrebirds are known for their prodigious vocal talents. But now, scientists have discovered that the males also impress females by pairing each of their courting songs with a particular dance. Australian National University behavioral ecologist Anastasia Dalziell led the study.

ANASTASIA DALZIELL(Australian National University):

When they’re dancing they have just four different songs, and with each of those four songs, the lyrebirds have a unique set of dance movements. So depending on what songs they sing, you can predict what kind of dance moves they’re going to perform.

HIRSHON:

She says as in humans, coordinating dance moves with songs is hard work. So it’s possible that females pick their mates based on their ability to groove. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

(Lyrebird song)

Watch a video about superb lyrebird song and dance

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Story by Susanne Bard