Sunday, April 28, 2013

Really Weird Birds: Part 14

Male Bowerbirds have fascinated scientists with their complex courting behavior. 

Male Bowerbirds are accomplished avian architects.  They are renowned for building an elaborate structure, called a bower, on the forest floor made from twigs, leaves, and moss.  In order to attract the females, a male Bowerbird will decorate the bower with colorful objects like flowers, leaves, and berries.  They will also adorn the bower with pebbles, dead insects, fruits, nuts, shells, rocks, even trash and deer dung! 

Bower of a Satin bowerbird, decorated with many blue objects.
 There are twenty species of Bowerbirds.  They range in size from 8.7 inches to 16 inches tall.  Ten species are native to New Guinea, eight native to Australia and two found in both.  Their range is mainly throughout the tropical areas of New Guinea and northern Australia; however a few species range into central, western and southeastern Australia.  There is a group in the Bowerbirds -- four catbirds of the genus Ailuroedus -- that do not build bowers and that are monogamous.

As for the rest, males will spend 9-10 months of the year regularly working on, improving, and rearranging their creations.  The bowers are not nests.  They are essentially seduction chambers designed to attract one or more females to mate.  A female will arrive to inspect the bower and the male will then strut his stuff and sing.  He may even carry around one of his colorful shiny decorations.  If she chooses him, they will mate and she will fly off to build her nest nearby, leaving the male to try and seduce more females.  Click here to see a video where Vogelkop Bowerbird males decorate their bowers to impress females.

Each species of Bowerbird builds its own shape of bower and prefers different decorations. 

Macgregor's Bowerbirds in New Guinea may spend weeks erecting, and years perfecting, a "maypole" bower up to seven feet high atop a ring of moss. 

Female Satin Bowerbird - what male could resist those blue eyes?

Satin bowerbirds “paint” the walls of their bowers with chewed berries, plants or charcoal.  Their favorite color decoration is blue.  They will collect blue feathers, berries, flowers, and trash like bottle caps and straws.  Maybe it’s in order to compliment the females pretty blue eyes!

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

No comments: