Re:price of Morecombe Field Guide

To: Barbara Harvey <>
Subject: Re:price of Morecombe Field Guide
From: "Syd Curtis" <>
Date: Fri, 01 Sep 2000 00:11:29 +1000
Hello Barbara,

            You asked, 10:51 AM Aug 31 -

> What are the errors in the Morcombe field guide, please?

I'll give you one: the tail of the male Albert Lyrebird is depicted as
straight.  In fact it has an upward curve throughout its' length (see "The
Albert Lyrebird in Display", Emu, 1972, last para page 81).  But at least
the tail isn't as woeful an apology for an Albert tail as that in Morcombe's
1986 "Great Australian Birdfinder".

However, this minor error needs to be put into perspective.  I checked at
the local Angus & Robertson Bookworld shop.   As well as Morcombe the shop

Pizzey and Knight    (tail straight)

Slater    (tail curving down at the end)

Simpson & Day    (tail behind a log)

Not one shows it correctly.  I surmise that none of the artists/authors have
had a good look at a mature Albert male in the wild.  Someone has looked at
the Superb and taken a guess that the Albert's tail at rest would have much
the same curvature.  And the rest have followed the first.

Or maybe they have all been led astray by the Reader's Digest "Complete Book
of Australian Birds", which has a rather indifferent photo with the title "A
rare photo of Albert's lyrebird. This is a male."  If it is a male then is a
very young one, before its' first moult.   But it looks like a female -
straight tail and no filamentary feathers.  (My copy is the first edition,
1976.  Maybe later editions corrected this?)

I think Robin Hill was the first after Leach and Caley to produce an
Australian bird book.  His "Australian Birds" 1967 shows the Albert with a
straight tail.  So did Caley for that matter.  Leach didn't include an
illustration of the Albert.  Gould showed the Albert's tail in a pseudo-lyre
position which is not natural.  The filamentaries however do suggest the
correct curvature. (I don't have a set of Matthews.)

The error is of little consequence however:  Albert Lyrebirds don't wait
around for you to raise your binoculars.  The only species that could be
confused with an Albert Lyrebird is the Superb, and the two species don't
occur together.  So separate them on locality.  (The next issue of the
Australian Geographic will have an an Albert Lyrebird article with a map
indicating the distribution of the species.)

Syd Curtis at Hawthorne in Queensland


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