Reproductive biology

Lyrebirds have a dispersed lek mating system, each male having a number of display arenas within his large territory that is vigorously defended. Elaborate visual and vocal displays are used to attract females. Superb lyrebird males mate with any female they can attract, and do not form pair-bonds; Albert's lyrebirds are probably similar in behavior.

The female superb lyrebird undertakes all domestic duties, building the nest, incubating the single egg (rarely two), feeding the chick in the nest, and caring for it for up to nine

A male Albert's lyrebird (Menura alberti) performs its seldom-witnessed courtship display deep in the McPherson Range rainforest in Australia. (Photo by Wayne Lawler. Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

months after it leaves the nest. The nest is a large domed structure with side entrance, built of sticks with moss sealing the interstices; it is usually well camouflaged, and often has a platform at the entrance on which the female can stand. The nest is lined with feathers plucked by the female from her own body.

Incubation lasts six to eight weeks and the chick remains in the nest for another six weeks, so that the female remains close to the nest for about three months. As nests are often on or near the ground, nest hygiene is important; smell could disclose the location to a predator. The droppings of a lyrebird chick in the nest are produced in a gelatinous sac that the chick excretes directly to the bill of its mother. This she disposes of by burying or placing in a stream.

Both species breed in winter, approximately May to August, though superb lyrebird nests have been found with eggs as late as October. Winter breeding appears advantageous for superb lyrebirds in that most of their range has a winter rainfall, so that the chick is present when food is normally plentiful and more readily accessible.

Albert's lyrebirds also breed during the winter even though the different climatic pattern in their range results in the nestling being present during the driest time of the year. This suggests that the species may have evolved under different climatic conditions.

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