Alberts lyrebird

Menura alberti

TAXONOMY

Menura (Harriwhitea) alberti Bonaparte, 1850, Turanga (now Terania) Creek, Richmond River, Australia. Monotypic.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Prince Albert's lyrebird, Northern lyrebird; French; Menure d'Albert; German: Braunrücken-Leierschwanz; Spanish: Ave Lira de Alberti.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

34-37 in (86-94 cm); 2.0 lb (0.92 kg); female weight not recorded. Tail (longest feathers), male 20 in (51 cm), female 16 in (40 cm). The male's outer pair of tail feathers are plain and fully webbed, dark brown above and dark gray below, and are the shortest at about 15 in (38 cm); the next six pairs of "filamentary" feathers, dark brown above and light gray underneath, are about 20 in (51 cm). The central pair are about 21 in (53.5 cm), but only 0.5 in (1.3 cm) wide.

DISTRIBUTION

Southeastern Queensland and northeastern New South Wales: approximately Laidley to Ballina.

HABITAT

Subtropical rainforest, wet sclerophyll forest with rainforest understory, Antarctic beech (Nothofagus) forest.

BEHAVIOR

Males defend separate individual territories in dispersed leks, using vocal and visual displays to attract females for mating. Display arenas consist of crossed thin vines and sticks lying loosely on the ground and able to move with the movement of the bird's feet. During the display, the male grasps a vine and vigorously moves it up and down during his gronking song. When the vines and sticks are dry, this makes a tapping sound in perfect time with the rhythmic notes of the song. In effect he is using "rhythm sticks"—possibly the only bird in the world to accompany its song with a musical instrument.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Scratches in leaf litter and surface soil for invertebrate fauna. REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Female alone builds nest and raises the chick. Single egg laid mostly in June.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. No population estimates. Probably secure as a species, but some concern because of limited distribution. Several small isolated populations at risk.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Some shot for food or ornamental tails early in twentieth century. Now held in high regard by the public. Significant in ecotourism. ♦

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