Lyretailed honeyguide

Melichneutes robustus

TAXONOMY

Melichneutes robustus Bates, 1909.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Indicateur à queue-en-lyre; German: LeierschwanzHoniganzeiger; Spanish: Indicador Cola de Lira.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

6 in (17 cm). Long, lyre-shaped tail is most distinctive feature; two median pairs of retrices are curved outward at distal ends, outermost retrices are narrow and short.

Undersurface of tail is white; bird shows the white part conspicuously in flight. Both sexes uniformly olive-green above and whitish below; female shows some gray streaks on rear underbelly, and tail is not as large or exaggerated, but has similar shape.

DISTRIBUTION

Two separate areas of distribution in western Africa, one including Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast, the other, larger area centering around Cameroon.

HABITAT

Lowland tropical rainforest.

BEHAVIOR

Only incomplete information on behavior, since species is rare and individuals are difficult to spot. The spectacular aerial displays are described below. Individuals have been seen perched in trees near bees' nests, and associated with barbets and tin-kerbirds, presumably as preferred brood hosts.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Includes beeswax, bee larvae, and other arthropods.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Most spectacular mating display of all honeyguides. The male, airborne, voices several "peee" notes, then executes rapid, steep dive with tail feathers spread. Those feathers produce a signatory "kwa-ba kwa-ba" series of sounds. Male may also ascend and descend in spirals.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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