Sunday, November 16, 2014

#72 The Superb Lyrebird

Most birds have one or two sounds that they can make or “songs” that they “sing”. The fact that any animal can make sounds like the birds do at all is a phenomenally complex accomplishment involving their ears, brain, syrinx, beak, mouth, and lungs all working simultaneously. It is so amazing that it would “impress the great composers”. [a] [b] (I highly recommend this webpage as an introduction about bird sounds and the messages they are communicating, and the many intricate ways they do it.)

“The vocal skill of birds derive from the unusual structure of their powerful vocal equipment. The syrinx is the sound-producing organ in birds. It is the equivalent of the human sound box. The syrinx contains membranes which vibrate and generate sound waves when air from the lungs is passed over them. The muscles of the syrinx control the details of song production; birds with more elaborate system of vocal muscles produce more complex songs.”[c]

The Lyrebird in Australia gets even more complicated by a whole new order of magnitude. Not only is it considered by many to be the loudest bird in the world, but it can hear, remember, and then somehow imitate extraordinarily complex sounds and sequences. Following are some links to videos on YouTube where Lyrebirds are videotaped reproducing sounds such as a chainsaw, hammering in a nail, sawing on wood, a camera shutter, a motorized drive on a camera shutter, a radio broadcast, and even a man swearing.

Superb Lyrebird imitating construction work - Adelaide Zoo

David Attenborough, Amazing! Bird sounds from the lyre bird - BBC wildlife

National Geographic, World's Weirdest - Bird Mimics Chainsaw, Car Alarm and More

This excerpt is from an article in Wikipedia that I highly recommend for more information.

“The lyrebird's syrinx is the most complexly-muscled of the Passerines (songbirds), giving the lyrebird extraordinary ability, unmatched in vocal repertoire and mimicry. Lyrebirds render with great fidelity the individual songs of other birds and the chatter of flocks of birds, and also mimic other animals such as koalas and dingos. The lyrebird is capable of imitating almost any sound and they have been recorded mimicking human caused sounds such as a mill whistle to a cross-cut saw, chainsaws, car engines and car alarms, fire alarms, rifle-shots, camera shutters, dogs barking, crying babies, music, and even the human voice.”[d]

Begging for Love, by Bernd Amesreiter

Awesome bird, the Lyre Bird mimicking like crazy!

Amazing Lyre Bird can imitate Dubstep and Drum n Bass! (WARNING - expletive coming)

Check in the footnotes below for some additional videos on YouTube. [e]

“In the wild, males will not only flawlessly imitate some 20 different species of birds, but multiple calls from each. They’re particularly fond of imitating Australia’s famous laughing kookaburras, and Dalziell has heard them mimicking the wing beats of small birds jetting through the forest understory. Up to 80 percent of a lyrebird’s song can consist of such mimicry, according to Dalziell…” [f]

The Superb Lyrebird can imitate other birds so well that they are completely deceived into believing it is one of their own. [g]

Scientists who study the Lyrebirds say they have fossils dating back 15 million years ago.[h]

The Lyrebirds get their name from the beautiful tail feathers on the male that grow when he is 3 or 4 years old.[i] There are 2 species of Lyrebirds (Superb and Albert’s), but only the Superb species has these amazing tail feathers.

Evolutionists have quite a number of problems trying to explain how this ability could have developed slowly and gradually in the Lyrebird. They never actually discuss how changes in the brain or vocal mechanisms take place. They refer to some generalized explanation of sex appeal in the male making him more attractive to the female AFTER he has evolved. That's just a “red herring” because there is no evidence of HOW he could anatomically change.

One big problem for evolutionists is, “What was the order of development of the needed parts?” Imagine the brain of a Lyrebird and how it evolved.  Did it first evolve the ability to hear, record, and remember a very complex sequence of sounds slowly and gradually? How would that be a benefit to survival? Then many generations later its lungs, syrinx, and beak changed so it could make all those sounds it could remember.

What about the other way around? Did the mouth, throat, syrinx, and lungs slowly and gradually evolve to this level of specialization and then the brain evolved after that? Could all these complex mechanisms have evolved all on their own without the brain? Note that the anatomical mechanisms evolving slowly over many generations would have to conveniently evolve piece by piece without any designer until the whole thing would suddenly work. Once the “musical instrument” existed, then the brain has to be able to “play” it. The brain would have to evolve so it could eventually learn how to take the stored memory of a sound and reproduce it. Did this take many generations?

Maybe when you were a kid someone made for you a flute out of a hollow bamboo reed. [j] You blew in one end and were shown that by covering different holes you could make different sounds. So far so good.  But how long was it before you could play a song on that flute? Not easy was it? And you were a pretty smart kid! Learning to play even a simple musical instrument is not easy.

The other possibility for evolution is that all these complicated, interconnected systems developed simultaneously. First they were one tenth developed, then one quarter developed, then one half developed, and so on. In this case, it doesn’t seem like anything will work very well until it is all finished. There seems to be very little survival benefit at each of the intermediate stages along the way. So how could evolution like this be realistic? Besides that, the chances of many interconnected mutations happening nearly simultaneously is non-existent. 

Evolutionists believe that the Lyrebird accidentally developed a very sophisticated vocal mechanism (way more complicated than a flute). The Lyrebird can create thousands of sounds compared to a few on your flute. That bird brain also accidentally figured out how to instantly remember various complicated sounds that it hears and then somehow learned to reproduce the exact sounds and sequences using its amazing vocal apparatus (way beyond some simple flute).

That bird brain had to have accidentally developed not only “perfect pitch” [k] and “perfect rhythm/timing/beat”, but also something similar to a photographic memory for sound. If a human being could accomplish something like this, he/she would be considered one of the “wonders of the world”.

The Lyrebird could not have evolved. It was designed.

There must be God.
[a] Gareth Huw Davies, Bird Songs, PBS,
            “The musical detail would have impressed the great composers. The nightingale, for example, holds up to 300 different love songs in his repertoire. The canary may take 30 mini-breaths a second to replenish its air supply. The cowbird uses 40 different notes, some so high we can't hear them. The chaffinch may sing his song half a million times in a season.
            “Indeed, British musician David Hindley slowed bird song down and discovered parallels between the skylark's blizzard of notes and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony; between the woodlark's mind-numbingly complex song and J.S.Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues. It changes its tune according to the rules of classical sonata form.”

 [b] Gareth Huw Davies, Bird Songs, PBS,
            “In most species, a male bird owning a territory is essential for attracting a female and breeding successfully. Males claim a territory by singing in it. They generally use shorter, simpler songs for territorial defense. They are addressing their songs to rival males. These territorial songs carry over long distances and convey detailed information about the location and identity of the singer. Gaps in the song enable the singer to listen for replies, and determine where their rival is and how far off.

Birds can distinguish neighbors from strangers by individual differences in their songs. Males use this information to concentrate their defense efforts. They will not react aggressively against a neighbor as long as he stays on his own territory. But a singing stranger could mean a threat to the territory; a strong response is required to see this potential invader off.

When they are trying to attract females onto their territory, males become operatic. They sing longer and more complex songs.”

[c] Gareth Huw Davies, Bird Songs, PBS,

[h] Wikipedia, Lyrebird, Taxonomy and systematics,

[d] Wikipedia, Lyrebird, Vocalizations and mimicry,

[i] New South Wales, Australia, Government website, Lyrebirds,

[f] Matt Simon, Wired.Com, Absurd Creature of the Week: The Bird That Does Unbelievable Impressions of Chainsaws, Car Alarms,

[e] Additional YouTube videos, Australian National University, Adelaide Zoo Lyrebird "Chook", Lyrebird: The Best Songbird Ever, This Bird can TALK in 20 different voices!, Healesville Sanctuary, Australia, Medusa Media, Superb Lyrebird - performing repertoire of local birdcalls and courtship dance

[g] Abbie Thomas, Winter call of the lyrebirds, ABC Science,

[k] Google. Definition: Absolute Pitch or Perfect Pitch is a rare auditory phenomenon characterized by the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.

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