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Honeyguides: Indicatoridae

Lyre-tailed Honeyguide (melichneutes Robustus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Dull-colored lyre-tailed honeyguides have a long, lyre-shaped tail (U-shaped), and two middle pairs of retrices (RET-rihs-uhs) paired flight feathers of the tail, which extend from the tail edges) that are curved outward at distal ends (away from the point of attachment), while the outermost retrices are narrow and short. The birds also have a white undersurface about the tail (which is shown while in flight), olive-green upperparts, and whitish under parts. Males and females look different with respect to their plumage (unlike most honeyguides whose sexes look alike). Females show some gray streaks on the rear underbelly, and their tail is not as large The lyre-tailed honeyguide is named after the lyre, a stringed instrument that is played by plucking the strings. Its tail looks similar to the U-shaped instrument. (Illustration by Wendy Baker. Reproduced by permission.) as the male, but has the same shape. Adults are about 6 inches (17 centimeters) long and weigh between 1.7 and 2.2 ounces (47.0 and 61.5 grams).

Geographic range: They are found in two primary locations in western Africa: one location that includes Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Ivory Coast, and the other location that includes a larger area around Cameroon.

Habitat: Lyre-tailed honeyguides are located in lowland tropical rainforests, primary forests and their edges, secondary forests, and plantations.

Diet: They eat beeswax, bee larvae, termites, insects, spiders, and fig fruits.

Behavior and reproduction: Lyre-tailed honeyguides are not believed to migrate. The mating display of lyre-tailed honeyguides is very interesting. Males fly around while singing several "pee-pee" notes, which go into "ve-bek, ve-vek." They then go into a rapid and steep dive with their tail feathers spread out. These feathers brush against the wind to make a "kwa-ba kwa-ba" series of sounds. Males may also fly up and down in spiral movements.

Lyre-tailed honeyguides and people: There is no known significant relationship between people and lyre-tailed honeyguides.

Conservation status: Lyre-tailed honeyguides are not currently threatened. ∎



del Hoyo, Josep, et al., eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1992.

Dickinson, Edward C., ed. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ and Oxford, U.K.: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopedia of Birds, 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1998.

Harrison, Colin James Oliver. Birds of the World. London and New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.

Perrins, Christopher M., and Alex L.A. Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File, 1985.

Web sites:

Creagrus at Monterey Bay. "Honeyguides: Indicatoridae." http://www.montereybay.com/creagrus/honeyguides.html (accessed on July 13, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsHoneyguides: Indicatoridae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Malaysian Honeyguide (indicator Archipelagicus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, HONEYGUIDES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS