Guide Winter of the Lyrebird

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The bill is black; the iris dark brown or black, and it has a broad, blue-grey ring around the eye. The legs and feet are brownish grey to dark grey or black. The sexes are alike except for the shape of the tail.


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The male has a spectacular tail composed of: 1 a central pair of long ribbon-like dark-brown median plumes; 2 six pairs of long, filmy and luxuriant filamentary feathers, which are black-brown above and dark grey below; and 3 a long broad fully webbed outermost pair of lyrates, which are black-brown above and dark grey below. The tail of the female is shorter, simpler, slightly drooping and appears more pointed when closed; it is composed of a pair of long, narrow and tapered median plumes, and fully webbed broad brown feathers with rounded tips, but lacks filamentaries.

When walking, the male carries its tail in an upward-curving train; when displaying, the tail is inverted and spread over the body and head, and is shimmered Higgins et al. Juveniles are separable from adults at close range. They are similar to the adult female, but can be distinguished by: 1 the richer and more uniform rufous-brown colouring on the chin, throat and foreneck, and brighter red-brown wash on the forehead and forecrown; 2 the slightly paler upperbody; 3 the softer, downy texture of the rump, lower belly and vent feathers; and, most importantly, 4 the tail feathers excluding the central pair of medians are distinctly narrower, more tapered and pointed.

Additionally, some juveniles appear to differ little from the adults in the colour and pattern of the lower breast, belly and flanks, but in others these areas are clearly more extensively rufous, being a uniform light rufous-brown Higgins et al. Albert's Lyrebird usually occurs singly or in pairs, or rarely in groups of three. It is sedentary, and remains in the same general area year-round. Males are territorial during the breeding season Higgins et al. Albert's Lyrebird is endemic to Australia Higgins et al. It is confined to a small region around the border of far south-east Queensland and far north-east NSW, and breeds throughout this range Higgins et al.

Reports of the species in the Blackall Range almost certainly refer to misidentified calls of Satin Bowerbirds Higgins et al. A report from much farther west, at a site north-east of Tenterfield in October , is considered to be highly doubtful, and has been suggested to result from misidentification of a Superb Lyrebird Higgins et al.

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Extent of occurrence apparently declined following European settlement. Although the species was still widespread in lowland areas at the turn of the 20th century Higgins et al. Along with the decline in the extent of occurrence, the area of occupancy also probably declined after European settlement. The distribution of Albert's Lyrebird appears to be fragmented, at least in parts of its range, e. Given the scattered distribution, and the sedentary nature of the species, gene-flow between subpopulations is unlikely. Because the range of the species is confined to such a small geographic area, it is considered to occur at one location.

A threatening event such as a severe regional drought has the potential to affect all individuals. The total population of Albert's Lyrebird is estimated at breeding birds. Albert's Lyrebird is estimated to occur in 10 sub-populations which, based on the biology of the taxon, are probably genetically isolated.

The Lyrebird

The species appears to have declined around North Wollumbin Trudgeon The population at Tamborine Mountain is said to have declined greatly Higgins et al. Numbers 'a few miles from Brisbane' are said to have declined by the late s. It may have once occurred north to Wide Bay in Queensland Higgins et al. The species has declined at several locations within its range, and was formerly more widespread at lower altitudes at the turn of the 20th century; it is also said, probably fancifully, to have once occurred north to Wide Bay in Queensland Higgins et al.

No information is available on future changes in population size. Given the geographically restricted range of this species, all populations are considered to be important. The Tamborine Mountain population in the north and the Blackwall Range population in the south are important as they occur on the edge of the species' range and their loss would reduce the extent of occurrence of the species significantly.

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Being isolated and distant from other populations, it is also possible that they may be genetically diverse from other populations Birds Australia August e, pers. Generation length is estimated at 15 years. Though there is some overlap in range between Albert's Lyrebird and the Superb Lyrebird Menura novaehollandiae , the only other member of the genus, they are not known to occur in the same sites Higgins et al.

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Cross-breeding would, therefore, be unlikely. Much of the remaining habitat of the species is reserved. Gynther June , pers. Management plans for all of these reserves contain provisions for the active management of Albert's Lyrebird Birds Australia August e, pers. Albert's Lyrebird is mostly confined to rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests with mesic understorey, usually at altitudes of more than m above sea level. They are typically located in gullies, along watercourses, and on the slopes and ridges of steep mountain ranges Higgins et al.

Albert's Lyrebird is mostly confined to rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests with mesic understorey; they do not occur in dry sclerophyll forest Higgins et al. They are found in mostly at altitudes greater than m above sea level, though some are still recorded down to m above sea level Higgins et al. Based mainly upon data from throughout the species' range in NSW, Albert's Lyrebird is only found in forests with a mesic understorey, either rainforest or wet sclerophyll forest, and then only the wettest examples of each of these forest types Higgins et al.

The composition of plant species within these forests does not appear to be important except that a canopy of eucalypts is always associated with higher population densities when compared to rainforests that lack eucalypts at sites with equivalent climates. Population densities increase along a gradient of increasing rainfall and decreasing mean annual temperature; with decreasing moisture index, the density of males declines and individuals become increasingly restricted to areas around gullies.

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In comparisons of wet sclerophyll forest and rainforest with equivalent climate and moisture index, higher densities always occur in wet sclerophyll forest and are associated with the greater weights of litter and logs and slower rates of litter decomposition Higgins et al. The display sites of male lyrebirds are usually surrounded by dense foliage at ground-level, and are typically found below gaps in the canopy. In optimal habitat, they forage and sing at levels up to and including major ridges, but in medium-quality habitat, foraging tends to be confined to lower slopes and gullies.

They do not forage or display in dry sclerophyll forest Higgins et al. In Murwillumbah Management Area, in north-eastern NSW, they are found mainly within rainforest and wet eucalypt forest with a rainforest substage.

rectlerebe.cf The highest population densities recorded in winter surveys were from forest with a closed canopy m tall, and with a dense understorey 0. Habitat types utilised at Murwillumbah included: simple and complex montane rainforest and rainforest thickets; regenerating rainforest under emergent eucalypts, such as Blackbutt Eucalyptus pilularis ; montane forest with rainforest understorey; montane Acacia forest; mature moist Blackbutt forest; and gully Acacia forest Higgins et al. Data from more general observations also indicate a preference for rainforest with a dense understorey of vines and shrubs, or wet sclerophyll forest with a dense understorey of rainforest plants, including temperate rainforest.

They are occasionally recorded in areas with mixed eucalypt forest, with a mesic understorey, around gullies and lower slopes, and with small amounts of rainforest in wet gullies Higgins et al. Steep moist valleys and other areas that are physically or geographically protected from wildfire are likely to offer important refuge habitat.


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  • The longest-lived bird on record was a male that maintained a territory in Lamington National Park, Queensland, for at least 15 years. This male was already in adult plumage when it was first observed, and is suggested to have lived to at least 22 years old Higgins et al. No information is available on ages of sexual maturity or natural mortality. The mating system of Albert's Lyrebird is unknown. Throughout the species' range, eggs have been recorded from late May to mid August.

    They nest beneath the canopy, usually in the darkest areas of the forest. Nests are often located in rocky areas, usually on ledges, in clefts or between rocks, or occasionally in caves, on rock or cliff-faces, or in deep rocky ravines; nests in such places are sometimes located near waterfalls. Nests may also be placed in a variety of other sites, including on the ground on steep slopes, on creek banks, between buttress roots of fig Ficus trees, amongst tree stumps, at the base of palm trees, amongst ferns, in dense shrubs or occasionally in tree forks Higgins et al.

    Females sometimes nest close to sites used the previous year; occasionally, nest-sites may be re-used. The female alone builds the dome-shaped nest, which has a side entrance; it is composed of sticks, fern fronds, rootlets, bark, pieces of palm leaf and moss, and is lined with moss, fine plant material and feathers. Construction of the nest may take at least three weeks Higgins et al.

    Clutch-size is one. The eggs can vary greatly in colour and, sometimes, shape, but are usually shaded brown or grey with spots and blotches, and sometimes other markings, of varying tones of brown and grey. The female incubates the eggs and feeds and broods the nestlings without any help from the male.

    The young fledge at approximately five and a half weeks. No information is available on breeding success, but it is claimed that a maximum of one brood may reared in a season Higgins et al. Albert's Lyrebird appears to feed mainly on insects including beetles and their larvae, and other soil-dwelling invertebrates; one female fed her nestling on earthworms that were placed out for her.

    They are claimed to feed on snails, but it has been suggested that the soft pliable bill of the lyrebird may not cope well with large gastropods. It has also been claimed that they seek cockroaches, worms, land snails and other invertebrates, but birds were not actually observed capturing or eating any of these Higgins et al. Albert's Lyrebird usually feeds on the ground, particularly in areas with deep moist leaf litter and fallen logs Higgins et al. They typically forage in areas that are rather open and lack dense shrub cover but have well developed taller strata; on one occasion, a group of three was seen foraging in a paddock of cultivated potatoes, m from the nearest rainforest cover Trudgeon When foraging on the ground they scratch among debris, turn over leaves and dig into soil in search of invertebrate prey Higgins et al.

    Albert's Lyrebird is sedentary. Males and females remain in the same general area throughout the year. Although the lyrebird's movements are poorly known, some dispersion or local movement beyond territorial boundaries may occur outside the breeding season by adult males and females and fledged young. It has been claimed that the species forages more widely and in different habitats during winter, and then withdraws to montane rainforest areas in summer, but this is considered doubtful for two reasons: 1 many territories do not abut montane habitat, and may be located up to 40 km from such habitat; and 2 breeding occurs in winter, during which time lyrebirds are restricted to territories or nest-sites Higgins et al.