Every morning I see the same little bird busy around the branches across from my window. Wondering about the commotion, I take my camera out and see to my amazement a beautifully woven, intricate bower, surrounded by blue treasures.
Bower or courting stage
This is the courting stage, or bower, of the blue satin bowerbird. The male is noted for its iridescent blue-black plumage.
To win the heart of a female, the male weaves an arena from hundreds and hundreds of individually collected twigs, all a similar diameter.
In the centre he erects two upswept wings which enclose a circular stage. Surrounding the stage, he places found objects, both natural and man-made, which must be of a bright blue colour.
These include feathers from the crimson and blue rosella, bottle tops, and wayward plastic remnants from all kinds of packaging and garden pots.
The female bower bird has a mottled green and brown plumage, providing ideal camouflage in Australia’s eastern states bushland.
The young males take up to seven years to reach full maturity, during that time they will practice building bowers, and they will display to other young males to learn the technique, and surprisingly they also work in gangs to steal from adults.
Scientists studying this unusual bird behaviour have discovered that the bowerbirds do seem to prefer to steal objects that reflect ultraviolet light, for example, blue parrot feathers and milk bottle tops. (These coveted items are also dangerous to their health, because sadly birds can get them stuck around their heads.)
To attract her attention, he hops onto a bough above the bower and sings and dances. As one approaches, he flies down to the bower and lifts various blue treasures up to show her.
Female blue satin bowerbird
The females are very particular. Some fly off after barely a glance at his labour of love. However, it is not uncommon for the male to attract a “harem” of females around him during mating season.
Let us hope our little male wins many hearts this autumn.
Another common Australian species is the Great Bowerbird, which can be found across the top of Australia. Males and females look very similar, a drab grey-brown, but the males have a hidden crest of neon pink feathers on the top of their heads.
This is called a nuchal crest, they keep these feathers hidden unless they’re trying to entice a female.