Sunday, 19 July 2009
Every few days, a female Victoria's riflebird (Ptiloris victoriae) drops by to see what's happening at the Snail Shell. The answer is, of course, not much. But I guess she has to see for herself.
Victoria's riflebird is a bird of paradise, one of four species in Australia and the only one occurring on the Atherton Tablelands. Males are not as gaudy as some of the New Guinea species. (Yes, I'm looking at you, greater bird of paradise.) Their plumage is an elegant combination of velvet black and satin blue, and the feathers sound like swishing taffeta when they fly. They make the most of this during their courtship display, which is a flamboyant flamenco danced on a bare branch so everyone can see.
My neighbours in the property across the road tell me that they've had a male Victoria's riflebird shake his tail feathers on their verandah rail. I'm thinking of putting in a special dance floor to entice him over here. Males often have several display posts in their territory, so that would just give him another option.
Although it is found only a short flutter away from the magnificent riflebird (P. magnificus) of Cape York Peninsula and New Guinea, Victoria's riflebird is more closely related to the paradise riflebird (P. paradiseus) of SE Queensland and NE New South Wales. They have been lumped together as one species in the past, but are now recognised as different.
The riflebirds form a clade with the superb bird of paradise (Lophorina< superba), which shares the same colour pattern but a much flashier courtship dance. The video tells it all.