The Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) is a pheasant-sized songbird, approximately 100cm long, with brown upper body plumage, grayish-brown below, rounded wings and strong legs. It is the longest and third heaviest of all songbirds.
The polygamous male is the bearer of the most elegant of all tails. The tail has sixteen feathers, with the two outermost being lyre-shaped. Next within are two guard plumes and twelve long, lace-like feathers, known as filamentaries. Seven years is required for the tail to fully develop. During courtship display, the tail is fanned forward beyond his head to form a silvery white canopy.
One of the two lyrebirds in the family Menuridae, the other being the much rarer Albert's Lyrebird, the Superb Lyrebird has a wide vocal range and extraordinary ability to accurately mimic sounds. The female lays a single egg and builds a domed nest above ground.
An Australian endemic, the Superb Lyrebird is distributed in the forest of southeastern Australia, from southern Victoria to southeastern Queensland. The diet consists mainly of small animals found on forest floor or from rotting logs.
Widespread and common throughout its large range, the Superb Lyrebird is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The scientific name has been given as Menura superba previously.
Lyrebirds are ancient Australian animals. The Australian Museum has fossils of lyrebirds dating back to about 15 million years ago. The prehistoric Menura tyawanoides has been described from early Miocene fossils found at the famous Riversleigh site.
The Superb Lyrebird is featured on the reverse side of the Australian 10 cent coin.
Superb Lyrebird in courtship display "? as seen from the back
John Gould's early 1800s painting of a male and female Superb Lyrebird specimens (on which the tail feathers on the male are unfortunately displayed incorrectly) "? the specimen is at the British Museum
A male Superb Lyrebird museum specimen (on which the tail feathers are unfortunately displayed incorrectly) "? the specimens are at the American Museum of Natural History