Sunday, 19 July 2009

At ease

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.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Bronwen
Lovely image of the female Victoria's RB. She is "mouthing off" by the looks of it.
The video is stunning, isn't it? I have seen it on TV before, but the chance to replay it (several times) is appreciated.
Did you notice that the display is from the upper tail coverts, akin to the display feathers of the Peacock?
It really is amazing.

mick said...

Wow! That is one bird I would really like to have in my garden - and obviously won't down here :-(

Tyto Tony said...

Got to see them up close for the full glory. Had a male Magnificent perform just for me on several days in Iron Range a few years back. Spectacular!

Dave Coulter said...

The yellow color in your riflebird is really pretty....I like that video!

Anonymous said...

Amazing video and photos. I'm envious of you living in a place with such beautiful wildlife.

budak said...

why are they called riflebirds?

Snail said...

They are rather special birds! This female is quite courageous --- and outspoken, Denis! --- and will fly close. In fact, she took exception to me hanging out of the window with the camera and swooped me the other day. Cheeky thing. She gave up when I ignored her. Magpies are intimidating, but I refuse to be cowed by a bird of paradise.

Budak, they're called riflebirds because the male's plumage is said to resemble the uniform of a British rifleman. They must be flashily-dressed soldiers.

Lulu Stader said...

Fabulous pictures!