Superb lyrebird

Menura novaehollandiae

TAXONOMY

Menura novaehollandiae Latham, 1802, Upper Nepean River, New South Wales. Three subspecies.

(The specific name novaehollandiae has been and remains in general use. However, its adoption was based on a mistake as to the date of publication, and on a strict interpretation of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, the name su-perba, Davies, should take priority. An application has been made to the International Commission for suppression of su-perba as an unused senior synonym.)

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Superb lyrebird, Edward lyrebird, Prince Edward lyrebird, Victoria lyrebird, Queen Victoria lyrebird; French; Menure superbe; German: Graurucken-Leierschwanz; Spanish; Ave Lira Soberbia.

The lyrebird was well-known to the Aboriginal people. Names from various language groups included: balangara, bulan-bulan, beleck-beleck, golgol, and woorayl. The double names almost certainly were derived from the loud double notes of the lyrebird's "pilick" song.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

30-39 in (76-100 cm); female 1.9 lb (0.88 kg), male 2.3 lb (1.06 kg). Male has highly ornamental tail, 28 in (71 cm). Outer pair of feathers elongated S-shape, decorated with semitransparent "windows"; six pairs of filamentary feathers; central pair very narrow. Very strong legs and feet. Long claws span 6 in (15 cm).

DISTRIBUTION

M. n. edwardi: Hunter River north to near Stanthorpe; M. n. novaehollandiae: Hunter River to Victorian border; M. n. victo-riae: Victoria, east of Melbourne, plus Snowy Mountains to Brindabella Range in New South Wales.

HABITAT

Wet sclerophyll forest, subtropical and temperate rainforest, Antarctic beech (Nothofagus) forest, dry sclerophyll forest, eucalyptus woodland.

BEHAVIOR

Separate male and female territories. Males sing and display on arenas consisting of low earth mounds. Sedentary. Mostly solitary, occasionally two or more together.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Forage on the ground for invertebrates in soil and litter, scratching and digging to a depth of several inches (10 cm).

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Males promiscuous. Female alone builds nest, incubates the single egg, and cares for the chick, which sometimes still begs from its mother at start of next breeding season.

CONSERVATION STATUS

All three subspecies are not threatened, though considerable reduction in habitat through European settlement. Some small isolated populations may be at risk.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Hunted for food and ornamental tails by early European settlers. This is the species that is now well-known and highly regarded by the public. ♦

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