The bowerbird is an endemic bird found in Australia and Papua Island, renowned for its distinctive nest-building and breeding behaviors.
There are 20 known species of bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae), with eight species endemic to Australia, ten to Papua, and two spanning both regions.
The largest bowerbird, the Archbold bowerbird, measures 15 inches, while the smallest, the Streaked bowerbird, has a length of 9 inches.
Their plumage displays a wide range of vibrant colors, including green, orange, red, yellow, black, and white as well as olive brown or gray.
Bowerbirds inhabit various ecosystems, including rainforests, shrublands, mangrove forests, and savannas.
They are displaying a preference for fruits and small insects as their dietary choice.
Adorning Nests for Ideal Mates
What sets these birds apart is their inclination to decorate their nests to attract the attention of potential mates.
Male bowerbirds engage in competition to showcase the best nest and win the affections of the female bowerbird.
These decorated nests, also known as bowers, are constructed from dry twigs and adorned with colorful objects found in the forest, such as flowers, fruits, and even human-made items like fabric pieces.
All objects are meticulously arranged around the nest. To select a mating partner, the female typically assesses the nests decorated by the males by walking around them.
The male bowerbird with the most colorful and elaborate nest is chosen by the female as her mating partner.
After the mating season, the female will build a simpler nest and care for her offspring in the nest she has created.
Stage Performances for Love
Once the nest is sufficiently adorned with bright colors to captivate the female’s attention, the performance begins.
Outside the bower, the male starts a dance with his eyes. His pupils contract alternately, creating a mesmerizing effect when the black pupils disappear against their bright yellow irises.
Subsequently, an unusual ‘song’ emerges, melodic yet slightly raspy. Finally, he flaps his wings in a dance, one wing remaining stationary while the other waves and rustles.
The male adjusts his performance based on the female’s response. If successful, they mate, possibly repeating the process in subsequent seasons.
If unsuccessful, the male will redecorate and may even pilfer from more successful bowerbirds.
Diverse Vocalizations and Imitations
Beyond their mating habits, bowerbirds possess unique vocalizations, capable of imitating calls from other bird species.
Not only that, these Australian and Papua endemic species can mimic sounds from their environment and occasionally even replicate human-made sounds.
This diverse and unique vocalization serves the purpose of attracting potential mates during the breeding season, as they practice competing with other males in capturing the female’s attention.
The Collector with a Favorite Color
One distinctive aspect of all bowerbird species is the color of the objects they choose to decorate their bowers.
For instance, the stripped gardener bowerbird species tend to collect items in yellow, red, and blue.
There are also brown bowerbirds that favor green-colored objects, and satin bowerbirds that particularly appreciate the color blue.
The satin bowerbird intentionally decorates his bower with blue objects to match its feathers and eyes, making the male more visually appealing to the female.
If the female is intrigued, they will be within the bower to mate.