- PhD Student, Lab of Animal Ecology, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney
- Topic: Explaining geographic variation in the multimodal display of the Albert’s lyrebird (Menura alberti)
- Research Umbrella: Cultural evolution in lyrebirds
- Supervisors: Dr J. Welbergen, Dr Anastasia Dalziell, Prof Rob Magrath
- Contact: Fiona Backhouse
I have a passion for broad-scale ecological interactions, and in particular I enjoy understanding how physical features of the environment affect the behaviour and life history of organisms. I received a Bachelor of Science from the Australian National University in 2016, completing Honours on the role of environmental heterogeneity on the reproductive success of superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus). In this project I used GIS to map long-term records of territory boundaries and nest sites and to link this data to fine-scale habitat characteristics. Following this, I spent several months working as a field assistant in Scotland, first on blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) near Edinburgh, then on Soay sheep in the remote St Kilda archipelago. In addition to this I have a long-standing background in music with classical training in piano, clarinet, and theory, which led to my interest in lyrebird song.
Recent arguments in conservation biology have suggested a move from a purely genetic focus to include diversity of cultural traits such as communication. The Albert’s lyrebird (Menura alberti) is a threatened species that performs elaborate displays in which they mimic other species and dance on constructed platforms. Previous research has found geographic variation in their vocalisations, but patterns and drivers of variation have not been quantified, and there have been no systematic descriptions of their visual displays. This project will quantify geographic variation of lyrebird displays, providing important information on drivers of variation in avian communication and aiding the cultural conservation of this charismatic bird.
Backhouse, F, Dalziell, AH, Magrath, RB, Rice, AN, Crisologo, TL, Welbergen, JA. Differential geographic patterns in song components of male Albert's lyrebirds. Ecol Evol. 2021; 11: 2701-2716. doi.org/10.1002/ece3.7225
Grants and Awards
2018 Project Funding from BirdLife Northern NSW
- DALZIELL, A. H. & WELBERGEN, J. A. (2016) Mimicry for all modalities. Ecology Letters, DOI: 10.1111/ele.12602
- DALZIELL, A. H. & WELBERGEN, J. A. (2016) Elaborate mimetic vocal displays by female superb lyrebirds. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2016.00034
- DALZIELL, A. H., WELBERGEN, J. A., IGIC, B. & MAGRATH, R. D. (2015) Avian vocal mimicry: a unified conceptual framework. Biological Reviews, 90:643-668
- DALZIELL, A. H., PETERS, R. A., COCKBURN, A., DORLAND, A. D., MAISEY, A. C., & MAGRATH, R. D. (2013). Dance choreography is coordinated with song repertoire in a complex avian display. Current Biology, 23:1132-1135
- DALZIELL, A. H. & MAGRATH, R. D. (2012) Fooling the experts: accurate vocal mimicry in the song of the superb lyrebird, Menura novaehollandiae. Animal Behaviour, 83:1401-1410
- DALZIELL, A. H. and WELBERGEN J. A. The mimics among us — birds pirate songs for personal profit. The Conversation, 19-8-14