Copy of a response to an RFI on BIRDING-AUS:
At 12:05 18/01/1997 -0500, Megan McCloskey wrote:
>i'm meghan mccloskey in brooklyn new york and i heard that you all have a
>bird that collects things that are blue! well, i'm very intrigued and would
>like to know more. i believe you even have a picture of said bird at the top
>of your site pages! would you please let me know the name of this
>interesting bird and does it collect only things that are blue? and does
>anyone know why?
Hi Megan - you are right about the bird that collects blue things. It is
the Satin Bowerbird, Ptilonorhynchus violaceus, which lives in wet forests
in eastern and south-eastern Australia.
Adults feed mainly on fruit. Females and immature males are green and grey
in colour; mature males do not acquire their glossy blue-black plumage until
several years old. Mature males have distinctive blue eyes, and they
collect predominantly blue objects (such as flowers, berries, drinking
straws, bits of glass, paper and plastic) with which to decorate their bowers.
These are not the nests, but avenues of sticks that serve as courtship
venues to attract females to mate with. The reason for collecting blue
objects appears to be to visually amplify the blue eyes and glossy plumage
of the males. Moreover, since building and maintaining a bower takes much
time and effort, and requires constant vigilance against the thieving raids
of other male Satin Bowerbirds, it is likely that bower holders, as
evidently healthy and successful achievers, are attractive as potential
mates to the females.
There are other kinds of bowerbirds in Australia and New Guinea that build
different kinds of bower and collect different coloured objects. The
bowerbird family, the Ptilinorhynchidae, is unique in the degree to which it
has substituted the display of constructed and collected objects for the
more usual vocal and plumage displays that most birds use in courtship.
Because of intense interest in their behaviour and evolutionary
relationships, bowerbirds have been much studied, and there has been a lot
written about them, especially the Satin Bowerbird which is quite common
near the capital cities of eastern Australia.
RAOU Conservation & Liaison,
Australian Bird Research Centre,
415 Riversdale Road,
Hawthorn East, VIC 3123, Australia.
Tel: +61 3 9882 2622. Fax: +61 3 9882 2677.
The Virtual Emu: http://www.vicnet.net.au/~raou/raou.html