pre-European bowers

To: "'Carol Probets'" <>, <>
Subject: pre-European bowers
From: "Phyl Goddard" <>
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2005 16:36:36 +1000
Thanks Carol.  So if SBBs use moss and sticks as paint brushes, does
that make them tool-users?  David Attenborough makes much of what he
calls 'tool-makers' in his Life of Birds (TV and book), mentioning two
species only, one of which is the Galapagos woodpecker finch: he says
its use of a cactus spine to prise out grubs has 'brought the bird
world-wide fame'.

Phyl Goddard

-----Original Message-----
From: Carol Probets  
Sent: Friday, 26 August 2005 8:42 PM
Subject: pre-European bowers

A few days ago, Phyl Goddard wrote:
>[Satin Bowerbirds]
>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

Yes, it has. Here in the Blue Mountains you can often see the 
dark-coloured paste which has been painted onto the inside walls of 
the bowers. Once I watched a bird from close quarters painting its 
bower using a piece of lichen or moss as a paintbrush - this was at 
Leura very near where the Vellengas did their studies.

And on the topic of natural, or pre-European, bower decorations, the 
following is from an account of a walk in the northern Blue Mountains 
which I posted on Birding-Aus in November 2000:

"Near the end of the day I found a lavishly decorated Satin 
Bowerbird's bower, on a ledge between boulders halfway up a steep 
hillside. It was far enough from civilisation that the majority of 
the decorations were natural. These included a large number of blue 
Crimson Rosella feathers, blue Stypandra flowers, yellow wattle 
flowers, pale greenish and brown leaves, a number of greenish 
cocoons, a large huntsman spider (almost, but not quite, dead and 
looking like it had been placed there by the bird) and, to our 
surprise, two freshly-picked beautiful yellow flowers of Dendrobium 
speciosum - the showiest of all the local orchid species. This of 
course led us on a hopeful search for the plants nearby, but we 
remained outdone by the orchid-finding skills of a bowerbird."



Carol Probets
Blue Mountains NSW


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