An Amazing Day with Lyrebirds

Subject: An Amazing Day with Lyrebirds
From: "Dean Portelli" <>
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 2004 22:29:38 +1000
Hi All,

I spent the day along the Lady Carrington Drive in the Royal National Park (south of Sydney) with Ricki Coughlan and Lyn Scott, and had the most enjoyable time watching Lyrebirds.

We first came across a trio of immature males (identified from tail characteristics), which turned into a group of four as the resident adult male trotted in and began chasing the younger ones who then displayed with fanned tails, raised crests and waving wings. The chases and displaying continued, and a fifth lyrebird joined in!!! It was another adult male that had lost all its tail feathers (looking rather like an oversized rail) - this bird joined in the wing waving and tail wagging (with his stumpy 'tail') and interestingly was being chased by the immature birds (maybe he lost his status and dominance over the youngsters along with his tail) - this adult was banded with a metal band on the right leg.

Anyway, the antics continued and only got better - much much much better!!!!. The fully tailed adult male began singing with some mimicry and wagging his tail side to side as he approached one of the foraging immature males. Soon he started giving a few plik calls as he moved closer to the immature bird and then all of a sudden inverted his tail over his head and went into full display, directing this at the immature, who just stood and stared. Lyn, Ricki and myself also just stood and stared - we were mesmerised, and very pleasantly suprised! This display continued for some time with the male out in full view - ON THE TRACK!! After a while the male started giving more plik calls and accompanied these with side to side 'dance' movements and slight wing movements, not the typical plik display but a mix of full display and plik display with the tail fully fanned open. Eventually the displaying died down and with the male in the middle of the track he relaxed his tail.

But that was by no means the end. Immediately after the display ended all five males appeared together in a 'flock' and trotted down along the track. At least one immature male resumed the fanned tail/waving wings/crest raised display, and then the tailless adult was once more chased for more than 10 metres down the track by one of the immatures.

The three of us could not believe how much of a treat these birds had given us, not only a displaying adult in full view on the track of all places, but such interesting interactions between all birds. We heard the tailless adult and one of the immature birds mimicking White-Throated Nightjar, which I have previously only heard from an immature once at Lady Carrington Drive. There was none of the usual mimicked species (like Whipbird, Crimson Rosella, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo etc) - one immature really favoured the King Parrot and gave only this call for some time.

Further along the track we sighted two females, each with curved tails indicating they were nesting, and one or two more fully-tailed adult males, and another male that had lost all his tail feathers and was re-growing them. After that I continued along the rest of the drive alone and Lyn and Ricki returned to Audley.

The lyrebird rewards continued for me. I revisited a nest where I had observed a female sitting last month, and found her foraging with a throat pouch full of food. I waited patiently and she eventually visited the nest, put her head inside and I could hear the soft begging calls of her chick as it was fed. She then departed the nest with a faecal sac in her bill and headed to the river to get rid of it. I thought this was great, what a morning!!!. But later, I came across another female with a throat full of food and found her to be the most tame female lyrebird I have come across - I was on the track only a few metres from her as she quietly foraged. She continued foraging for some time then disappeared into the vegetation, I looked for her, only to find another nest!!. Soon after, the female flew up to her nest (situated in an aptly named bird's nest fern) and then fed her chick. Like the previous female she left with a faecal sac, flying down to the creek where she deposited it in the fast flowing water (from the recent rains).

To round off a great day of lyrebird watching I saw another adult male along the Couranga Track.

Besides lyrebirds we also saw some other good birds like a very vocal PILOTBIRD singing loudly with head held high and bill opening wide, a ROCKWARBLER (and a couple more along the Couranga Track) and the other Lady Carrington Drive regulars.

What a great day!

Cheers, Dean

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