Bowerbirds are small, rather slim birds approximately 30cms long, closely related to birds of paradise.They’re unremarkably blackish-brown, apart from a lilac, retracting crest at the nape of the neck of a mature, bower owning, male. The lilac crest is vivid in colour, but only when he chooses to display it. They’re predominantly an eastern states bird, but we’ve seen quite a few in and around Katherine.
They’re well known for their complex mimicry vocalisations, including mimicking a dog barking, or the noise of a bird of prey should they feel threatened.
The male bowerbirds use twigs to weave a courtship tunnel (or bower). At both entrances to the bower he builds an intricate, colour co-ordinated, display court. Some of these bower sites may be retained by successive generations for upwards of 20 years.
There are several different species of Bowerbirds, and each builds their display courts in their own colours.
The richly coloured, yellow Regent Bowerbirds decorate their avenues with snail shells, berries, pebbles and leaves in colours of red-black and yellow-brown. Satin Bowerbirds decorate with blue coloured objects, and Spotted Bowerbirds construct neat piles using white, silver/grey and pale green objects.
Very close to where we’re camped we’re fortunate enough to have a Spotted Bowerbird busily tending his bower and court. He’s fascinating.
If you look closely at the objects in the mounds you’ll see lots of white and silvery grey pebbles, pieces of silver paper, white snail shells, broken pieces of green glass, a few nuts and bolts (most of which have green heads on bolts), and there’s even a 20 cent coin. There’s green leaves and small wild green lemons and green baby mangos.
I’ve raided my sewing box and have placed some small pearly buttons, some green buttons, and a few other pieces of shiny beads etc nearby. It’ll be interesting to see if these pieces take his fancy and end up in his display.
He’s managing to attract a few females to his bower using his special courtship style. This involves walking in wide circles with a raised head, open beak, cocked tail and drooped wings. He often uses props during his display carrying either brightly coloured leaves, pieces of fruit, or items from his courtyard.
He’s a joy to watch, but I’m not so sure he’s finding it such a joy to have us watching him. We’re distracting from both his house keeping, and his courtship. Sometimes nature provides entertainment for which there is no man-made equal.
What a pleasure.