Ian’s Bird of the Week – Magnificent Riflebird ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 9/12/11
We’ve been dealing with Birds of Paradise for the last couple of birds of the week, so here’s another one from Iron Range, the Magnificent Riflebird. This, like the Trumpet Manucode is easier to hear than see as it spends most of its time in the tall trees of the rainforest and on my previous two visits to this part of Cape York I’d seen only a few females. This time, the males were very vocal and actively courting females and I had more success, as in the first photo.
The ‘magnificent’ is appropriate as, with a length of 28-33cm/11-13in, it is the largest of the three Australian Riflebirds. (There is a fourth species of Riflebird, the Eastern or Growling Riflebird, in eastern PNG – recently split from the Magnificent Riflebird and distinguishable mainly by its call.) As you can see from the first photo, the blue shield on the throat and upper breast of the male is much larger than that of the other two Australian ones. It is also the only one of the three to have plumes along the flanks. These are hard to see on the first photo (except as a fuzzy area below the right wing) but are visible in the second photo both as a fuzzy line along the right side and as longer wiry plumes on either side of the tail.
Like Victoria’s Riflebird the heavy plumage of the males make a swishing noise in flight as they sweep regally around in the canopy of the forest. Their usual call is like a wolf whistle and carries a long way, though I found that locating a male in this way was no guarantee of being able to see it. The male in the first photo was actively wooing an unimpressed or ambivalent female who flew away from him and landed on a branch in the open directly above me. She quickly realised that she was attracting my interest too, as in the third photo, and flew off again in renewed search of peace.
The females are fairly different in appearance from the females of Victoria’s Riflebird with rufous upperparts and heavily barred underparts. (You may remember that the female Victoria’s has much greyer upper parts with less marked buff underparts). The fourth photo shows a female in a more typical pose, looking for grubs, Woodpecker-like, along the limbs and trunks of trees, though Riflebirds also eat fruit.
Another spectacular bird in Iron Range was the Yellow-billed Kingfisher. It has featured as bird of the week before, so here is the link to the new Yellow-billed Kingfisher and on the Daintree we encountered plenty of Azure Kingfishers and Little Kingfishers .
The website, incidentally, had a record month in August with more than 9,300 visits, substantially up from previous records in July of 7,700 and in June of 7,200, with total downloads of about 4.5GB, also a record.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! (Psalms 34:3 ESV)