Looking up Ian Rowley's 'Bird Life' on this, it confirms what you say,
Ian, that other coloured natural objects are used as well as blue, i.e.
greenish and pure yellow, brown and grey. Rowley bases his information
on Satin Bower-birds on Jock Marshall, who 'became deeply involved with
them in his academic experimental work' in Royal National Park. SBBs
also are said to decorate their bowers by 'painting with a mixture of
saliva and charcoal or saliva and green liverwort', using a stick as a
paintbrush (Vellenga, 1970). The Vellengas also did a lot of work on
SBBs according to Rowley. I wonder if that latter claim has ever been
confirmed? Anyway, it's an interesting few pages in Rowley's book.
PS On another subject, a Spotted Turtle-dove has started visiting my
garden in Weetangera.
From: Ian Fraser
Sent: Monday, 22 August 2005 9:59 AM
To: Bird List
Subject: pre-European bowers
WHile blue is obviously crucial to a SBB display bower, and the ready
availability of blue artefacts probably means that alternatives are
ignored now near settlements, I think that 'traditional' birds were/are
blind to other options.
I have a slide taken deep in Tallaganda, of a bower with no artificial
Blue Crimson Rosella feathers dominate, with blue berries (probably
Dianella), but there is also a selection of mostly pale-coloured
'curiosities', though a couple of sprays of glossy leaves are also
There are several native snail shells, but centre stage is a sloughed
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