Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Superb Birds

Superb starling
Lamprotornis superbus Rüppell, 1845
Sturnidae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata
London Zoo
November 2008

The above photo of a superb starling was taken in the “Birds of Africa” aviary at London Zoo, which contains Abdim’s storks (Ciconia abdimii), hamerkops (Scopus umbretta), Madagascar teals (Anas bernieri) and various turacos (Musophagidae) amongst other birds, in a mesh-covered walk-through area with pool and waterfall. As a result of the lack of bars or fingerprint-smeared glass, and the relative boldness of the aviary’s inhabitants, I was able to get this gorgeous picture of a superb starling, originally from East Africa, whose iridescent blue-green-purple and ginger plumage gave it its name. Incidentally, I always found it laughable that the masculine Latin for “superb” is superbus, which of course sounds like “super bus”.

Superb parrot
Polytelis swainsonii (Desmarest, 1826)
Psittacidae; Psittaciformes; Aves; Chordata
Van Hage Garden Centre
November 2008

Also known as the Barraband parakeet, the superb parrot is endemic to eastern Australia and is considered Vulnerable by the IUCN. It is mostly green, as you can see here, with a long tail, which you can’t.

Superb birds-of-paradise (stuffed)
Lophorina superba (Pennant, 1781)
Paradisaeidae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata
Cambridge Zoology Museum
June 2008

It is not easy to see when you look at a male bird-of-paradise that it is just a glorified crow. Females, however, look more corvine than their drag queen-like mates, and sound like ravens too. The superb bird-of-paradise is no more superb looking than any other of its more well known relatives, except for the beautiful iridescent cape that the male can lift under his throat to impress potential mates. It is one of the most widespread and abundant members of the Paradisaeidae, being found throughout most parts of the island of New Guinea, where most other birds-of-paradise are found.

Superb lyrebird (stuffed)
Menura novaehollandiae Latham, 1801
Menuridae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata
Natural History Museum, London
February 2008

Made semi-famous for its uncanny ability to mimic all sorts of natural and man-made sounds by its appearance in David Attenborough’s Life of Birds around a decade ago, the superb lyrebird is more well known to those who know it for the male’s beautiful tail, from whence the name comes. The resemblance to a lyre is clear; there are two long and broad feathers on the outside of the tail, and several filamentous plumes in between, like the strings of a lyre. Its ability to mimic other sounds has given its name an unintentional double meaning; should “lyre” be respelled “liar”?

Moving away from living dinosaurs and onto the extinct ones: there is a new palaeo-art themed carnival coming soon!

The theme, as you can see, is Ceratopsians, the horned dinosaurs. Check out the linked ad for more information, and stay tuned for exciting news related to palaeo-art...

I'm working on my entries... now get on with yours!


John Scanlon FCD said...

While doing so many Australian birds, don't forget our Superb Blue Wren Malurus cyaneus and its various congeners.

Mo Hassan said...

actually, yes, I drew the Australian fairy-wrens a few years ago, I should dig that illustration out and put it on here!