Re: both lyrebird species together?

To: bird <>
Subject: Re: both lyrebird species together?
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Sat, 03 Jul 2010 21:52:30 +1000
Greetings Birding-Aussies,

Can anyone comment on this?

Back in the 1970s the Ranger at Gibraltar Range N. P., Roley Payne (spelling
might be wrong) said there were Albert's Lyrebirds as well as Superbs in (I
think) Washpool State Forest (now N P -  on the north side of the highway).
Norman Robinson (CSIRO lyrebird specialist) and I checked in both Gibraltar
and Washpool but could find only Superbs.  I've recently had another report
claiming that both Superbs and Albert's have been heard and seen in both

To the best of my knowledge, there has not been any report in the scientific
literature of the two species co-existing anywhere.   That would be most
remarkable and well worth writing up.

The most southerly population of Albert's of which I am aware is the one on
the Blackwall Range just south of Ballina.  (I tape-recorded them in 1983.)

And I surmise that there would have to be very clear evidence to make a
report claiming co-existence of the two species, acceptable to a journal
editor.  Unmistakable photographic evidence would be ideal; a sound
recording, less so ... of the Albert's, of course; the Superbs are well
known in Washpool/Gibraltar Range.

Only once or twice have I seen females of either species, so I don't really
know whether they could be positively identified from a brief glimpse which
is all one can really expect, because they are so shy.  I suspect not.

Easily recognised as "lyrebird", and then one always "knows" from the
location which species it has to be.  At least that used to be the case.
And I surmise that one would need a very clear photo of a female to be able
positively to determine the species.  (Or of an immature male, for that

A photo of a mature male that clearly showed the two outer tail-feathers
would be ideal.  But extremely difficult to obtain!  And as I see it, there
are four other possibilities:

    1.  A sound recording that included a "gronking" song would establish
beyond doubt that it is an Albert's.  The equivalent Superb song, variously
referred to as 'plik' song, 'pillicks', 'pluggeras', etc., is totally
different.  Get a gronking song and it's an Albert's beyond all doubt.

    2.  Get a lengthy (say 10 minutes or more) recording of breeding season
display song, and if it's an Albert's, the fixed order of the mimicry should
be able to be demonstrated.  Superb mimicked sounds come in random order.

    3.  Find and photograph the display platform.  (The problem there of
course is to obtain evidence that it was being used by the bird.)

    4.  A sound recording of only a few minutes (without gronking) might
just suffice, under certain circumstances.  The problem there is that there
are such tremendous variations in the territorial songs with different
populations (locations).  And this applies to both species.

But if one got recordings from say 5 separate male Superbs in a particular
area, it might be possible to demonstrate that all of them are using the
same territorial songs.   Then a recording of another lyrebird in that same
area, that used none of those songs and had quite different territorial
songs, would be pretty strong evidence that it was not a Superb.

But this would have to be breeding season display song.  Out of the breeding
season they may sing quite different songs.  And I've heard Albert's, in the
breeding  season,  greatly varying their normal songs early in the morning,
while still up in the tree where they roosted.  (I don't know if Superbs do

Were I fit enough, I could positively identify the species of a territorial
male within a few days.  I'm quite confident that I'd find the mound or the
display platform on which he had performed.  If a mound, then of course he's
a Superb.

And if it was a platform, then I'd put a mic at the platform with 50 metres
or so of cable back to a suitable place of concealment and wait for him to
perform there again.  The recording would then be proof positive that he was
performing on that platform and therefore beyond doubt, an Albert's.

So - would anyone out there familiar with the lyrebirds of the Gibraltar
Range/Washpool complex, care to comment?


Syd Curtis



Also...Susan rang this evening to say she¹d spoken to you and got a correct
email address (I¹d already tried to send you a message two days ago but got
a rejection).  She mentioned that you were keen to talk to me again re
seeing both species of lyrebirds at Gibraltar Range.  Here, for your
interest, are a few details.  Almost two years ago (late August-early
September 2008) I was camping with my husband Bob and two friends down at
Mulligan¹s Hut, in Gibraltar Range National Park.  While bushwalking and
birdwatching in the heathland and woodland areas of the park out from
Mulligan¹s Hut we saw several superb lyrebirds.  A couple of days later,
while walking northwards through Ceratopetalum-dominated rainforest I heard
a lyrebird calling and recognised it as Albert¹s and not the superb.
Sometime after that, one crossed the track in front of us (female or
juvenile male).  Some weeks ago, I was talking to some fellow members of the
Tamborine Mountain Bird Group who had been camping at Washpool NP recently,
and saw Albert¹s lyrebirds there.  At the time I saw and heard both birds, I
wasn¹t sure how interesting this was, as it was my first time visiting Gib
Range NP.  Having listened to your talk last Friday, I wish now I had paid
more attention to the calling male Albert¹s lyrebird at Gib Range, to note
whether it was significantly different to those on Tamborine.  Certainly I
was immediately able to recognise it as an Albert¹s lyrebird call, as
distinct from the superb¹s call, because it stopped me in my tracks.  But I
was too surprised, and delighted, to really note any differences between it
and those with which I¹ve become familiar elsewhere.

Below, I¹ve included a bit of information about myself because while you¹ve
spoken to Susan a few times, I¹m pretty much a stranger to you.  Though I
imagine we have colleagues and acquaintances in common in CSIRO and Forestry
­ I¹ve had associations with both those organisations during my career.

Julie Lake

I¹m a horticulturalist and rainforest ecologist with a lifelong love of
natural history (especially plants and birds).  Most of my work has been
with the Australian nursery and garden industry. Published works include
Gardening in a Hot Climate and Gardening with Australian Rainforest Plants
(published by Lothian Books), Creating an Australian Rainforest Garden
( Bloomings Books), as well as books on azaleas and palms, and many
hundreds of papers and magazine articles.  I¹ve also edited a couple of
gardening books and contributed to several others. In the past year I¹ve
written four gardening books for the American market and completed a
biography of my grandmother, a woman in many ways like your mother, whose
extraordinary contributions to botanical science have not been duly
recognised by history.

Publishers of the GardenEzi easy gardening ebook series

Check out our website at <>

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and the popular ebook for campers of all ages <>

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