Royal National Park near Sydney - Satin Bower Bird

To: "N & J Russill" <>, "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Royal National Park near Sydney - Satin Bower Bird
From: "wendy" <>
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 2003 15:28:50 +1000
Hi Neil and Judy,
That was certainly a wonderfull 3hr birding walk.

Regarding the Satin Bowerbirds.
About a month ago there was some discussion on this bird on birding-aus
following an item on Burke's BY on Satin Bowerbirds being killed by blue
milk/juice etc bottle rings (from the caps). I had passed this on to friends
who work in a local (Melb) recycling promotion/education org.. Burke's
webpage had an info sheet and hints about what to do to mimise the risk. One
point was about making sure all BLUE rings were cut (before proper disposal)
so they could not cause this problem.

I looked up a book I have "In Quest of Bowerbirds" by Norman Chaffer(1984)
and (roughly) compiled  following list to point out to the plastics people
that colours other than blue pose a similar risk. Although the Satins are, I
guess, the ones that have the most human (litter) contact and are at
greatest risk.

Regent Bb - green (i think) it's not big collecter
Satin - Blue and Yellow + (white/silver)
Fawn-breasted Bb - green (maybe only berries though)
Spotted Bb - white & shiny (pic in book I have incl. silverfoil and
clear/white/brown broken glass)
Great Bb - red , white, metalic(silver/white colour) & ?green
Golden Bb - maybe only uses natural materials - flowers, moss, leaves

The book which has mostly  older pics - pre mass use of plastic - so human
artefacts in bower contents are really intriguing, esp. Great BB. e.g.
silver dining fork, toy? Al tea pot, tiny red cowboy hat, glass bottle
stoppers, ?thimble or something similar, etc etc One from 1964 had a
complete childs Al teaset on display (p. 63)!!

The objects in the Satin's nests incl.
    BLUE:  Rosella tail feathers, possibly blue-wren tail feathers, crown
and old metal glass lemonade bottle screw caps, broken pottery, drinking
straws, beads & berries, Al foil glass bottle tops (silver on reverse)
    YELLOW: yellow banksia and other leaves, yellow flowers, dried rose
petal, snail shells, berries, (maybe sea-grapes)
    WHITE/SILVER: sea and land snail shells, bleached small animal skull,
small light globe, early (1970-80s) Al bottle ring pull type cap

In the text there is discussion of paint materials used by the bird to
'paint' the bower walls which included crumbly bark, blue Dianella berries,
green liverwort, blue-berry ash berries, fruit of Geebung. One rather
worrying one was the contents of the old (do they still exist???) laundry
'blue-bag' - can't have been too good for the bird to ingest!

He has a count of  the contents one bower near Audley in the Royal National
Park: 8 landry blue bags, 10 pieces blue match box, 1 blue cigarette packet,
1 piece blue string, 34 piece blue glass, 17 blue feathers, 1 blue marble, 1
blue invitation car to a dance, 1 white ticket with blue printing, 8
yellowish wood shavings, 2 pieces yellow-green onion peeling, 8 snail shell,
1 cocoon, 9 cicada nymph cases, numerous yellowish-green flowers, and a very
large no. of yellowish green lraves, mostly the stiff, serated leaves of
Banksia serrata. A large no. of additional objects were partly embedded in
the substantial platform but I have only listed those lying on the

Pictures from 1968-9 and 1970s start to have plastic stuff - blue Bic biro
lids, ?bottle lids, and objects that look like power-poles from a train set,
or perhaps the frame that plastic model toy components are attached to.

Text also talks of gardners in SBB areas trying to grow blue flowers e.g.
delphiniums having all the blooms harvested, also yellow-green flowers.
Native creeper Billardiera scandens was collected.

I did not find in the pictures, or a quick scan of the text, mention of SC
Cockatoo crest feathers being used, however they certainly are an excellent
source of long-lasting natural yellow. I wonder if the ones in the bower you
saw could be collected from the environs of captively held pet SCC. I wonder
how often they are found in nature? In my experience dead rosellas (for tail
feathers) are not uncommon - esp if you factor in road-kills. But don't
often see dead SCC about the place?

wendy moore
Coburg (Melbourne)

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