Albert’s lyrebird is a threatened species in both QLD and NSW. Populations are restricted to rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests at altitudes >300m above sea level; where their main threats are clearing and fragmentation of habitat for agriculture, forestry and urban development.
They are a typically solitary, secretive, ground-dwelling bird and often heard but not seen. In June, in the middle of the breeding season we heard males calling all over the place. And what an awesome repertoire they have! These birds perform complex melodious calls that are designed to travel long distances and capture the interest of passing females. We caught this female scuttling through the bush presumably on her way to an impressive suitor.
The lyrebirds have got mimicry down to fine art. They build their remarkable songs by imitating all of the noises they hear around them. In this clip from Sir David Attenborough’s classic ‘Life of Birds’ listen to the closely related Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) imitate kookaburras, whipbirds and even chainsaws, camera shutters and car alarms! Recently Adelaide Zoo’s male lyrebird, Chook, attracted worldwide attention after learning to mimic the new sounds he heard from the nearby construction site.
After luring the female to his patch with his seductively melodious call, Albert’s Lyrebirds like the Paradise Riflebird put on an elaborate visual display for the female. He will hold his ornate tail feathers over his head and fan them gracefully, while continuing to sing songs, wowing the women with his amazing vocal abilities and fancy feathers. The ritual can last up to 20 minutes. Once the female has been successfully ‘seduced’, he’s off to impress another!
With less than 3,500 adults remaining, populations are closely monitored via annual surveys, and the public are encouraged to report any sightings to local rangers. An information kit can be downloaded here.