Great Bowerbird bower relocated!

To: "birding aus" <>
Subject: Great Bowerbird bower relocated!
From: "martin butterfield" <>
Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2005 16:47:18 +1000
As you conclude there is a great science project about to happen there.  However there isn't really a baseline for comparison: what happened last year or the year before (noting your comment about the age of the bower).  There would seem to be a scope for a nice oral history project of talking to as many of the school's denizens (probably just the humans - I doubt if frill necked lizards can do much vocal communication) to see what they can remember from last year, FORMALLY RECORD THIS,  and see how it compares with what happens in the future.
-----Original Message-----
From: [On Behalf Of Ricki Coughlan
Sent: Wednesday, 30 March 2005 2:24 PM
To: birding aus
Subject: [BIRDING-AUS] Great Bowerbird bower relocated!

Hi nature lovers
I thought that you would be interested in the outcome of the "Relocating Bowerbirds Bowers" posting which I put up last week. Stage 1: Re-siting of the bower has taken place. Here is an extract from my web log "Words, Birds n Bulldust", which describes the whole affair.
If you'd like to see pictures, I will be posting some on the net shortly.
"March 30, 2005

Last week, I was contacted by a local high school to help them resolve a Bowerbird problem. St Mary's College was building an extension to an office which would necessitate the destruction of the bower of the local Great Bowerbird. The students were a little unhappy about the loss of their bowerbird's "love shack", so their teacher contacted me. This was a new problem for me: Would the bird leave the area if the bower was destroyed?; Would the bird lose its standing in its local community as the "Alpha Male" if it lost its bower? or . . .  Would our bowerbird repair or rebuild elsewhere if we located a good site and moved his bower?!?

I put an inquiry up on the internet list "Birding-Aus" and sure enough there was an expert in Queensland who assured me that a bower had been moved once before and the bird took up residence quite happily. However, the placement must be correct.

Today I visited the school and gave a talk on bowerbirds generally and also gave a presentation on "Survival of the sexiest". In science, the students have been learning about Natural Selection with an emphasis on "survival of the fittest", so I wanted to present another important facet of evolution which has shaped the living world around us and that is Sexual Selection. We live in a world where, if a male wishes to dominate - in order to spread his genes through procreation - he must be able to out-muscle his rivals and be the most attractive to females. Those which aren't attractive to females will be "selected out" as they simply wont find a partner. One other thing, young female birds particularly like to see a bit of novelty which, of course, drives change. Hence, we have ancient relatives of crows which build elaborate structures out of sticks for females to stand in or near and observe a dance routine by the male, decorate them with items to show off to the females, practice dance and mimicry all their lives and develop complex social structures to ensure that the "sexiest" does all of the bower building and dancing - and copulating. In at least one of these species subordinate males are actually hormonally suppressed by dominant males. We have bowerbirds.

After our talk, we surveyed the grounds of the school to find a site which would suit their bowerbird. Its requirements are 1. a bush which hangs down fairly low, providing shade, shelter and privacy, 2. a tall tree nearby where the bowerbird can watch over his domain, for itinerant females and males which may attempt to steal those females away and 3. enough clear area about for our bird to see if any predators are stalking him whilst on the ground.

Eventually, we located a very promising site, so we proceeded to the site of the bower with a rather large, flat board in hand. Acting as though I'd done this 100 times before, I cleared the area in front of the bower and slid the board straight under all of the display artefacts at the front, the bower in the middle and the display artefacts at the rear. I was quite shocked that I was able to pull this off without disturbing even one twig, but my reputation as the Ace Ventura of bowerbirds was on the line. I then had the students take a corner and side each and then carry the whole kit and kaboodle to the new site. We'd already cleared the ground for the placement of the bower and so we just popped the whole thing on the ground and covered the edges with plenty of mulch. In time, the board will rot away and our bower might well continue to serve its purpose for years to come.
The bower would only be a couple of seasons old by the look of it and our friend may well reject it, but it was worth a shot as the bower would have been otherwise destroyed. I then admitted to the class that this was probably the second time in history that such a thing had been attempted and that they should make careful notes of what has happened. The kids seemed interested and happy about the whole affair, as was their science teacher and we now have the basis for a fantastic science project.
I will be following events here with great interest. Will he reject the site and rebuild elsewhere? If so, will he use his old bower materials to build a new one? Will he tidy up his new bower and continue business as usual? There could be so many interesting outcomes. We'll have to stay tuned.
You may like to know that our whole routine was watched very carefully by the school's local Frill-neck Lizard. The kids were pretty blase about having such a wonderful creature sharing their playground but I found myself wishing that I had grown up in such a place as they are indeed quite common around here. What fascinating reptiles these are, but more on them another day."
I will keep all birding-ausers up to date with all developments, of course.
All the best
Broome WA
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