He'll kill for Blue

To: <>
Subject: He'll kill for Blue
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 10:26:20 +1000
May I call on the wonderful collective knowledge of birding-aus, please?

I have just come across a note about Satin Bowerbirds which I feel to be
erroneous, but maybe it's just my ignorance.  I quote:

    "The great ornithologist Alexander Skutch, who died last year in Costa
Rica at the age of ninety-nine, believed natural beauty is no mere side
effect of evolution.  Natural selection, he points out, is essentially
destructive.  It eliminates those unable to make the grade while offering no
special care to those that live on.  The constructive art of life is where
he sees the glimmer of a final cause: the will of each creature to survive.
This need to endure, to live as one must, to sing to fulfil what your genes
have given you, is the way evolution feels from the inside.  This is why the
lyrebird cannot stop in the middle of a courtship dance, and why, if you
deprive a satin bowerbird of the blue petals he must collect to decorate its
mating bower, he will kill the first blue bird it finds and lay its feathers
in front of his lair.  He simply MUST have blue."

I've not heard of an S Bb killing for blue feathers.  Nor have I seen a
bower decorated with blue petals.  It would not be surprising if blue petals
were used: I recall some Golden Bowerbird bowers that I had under
observation for some months in the Spring of 1948, and the birds were using
orchid flowers as decorations.  Further, they carefully removed the old ones
as they wilted, and replaced them with fresh.  But my experiences of S Bb
bowers has been that they do not use petals, but stick to durable blue
objects such as feathers, or in recent times, human artefacts of blue

The book I'm quoting from is not about bowerbirds, and the author is not an
Australian.  The accuracy or otherwise of the bowerbird reference is not of
prime concern so far as the book is concerned, but somehow the author got
that impression of the species.  From where, I wonder?

Can anyone throw any light on the matter?



Syd Curtis  

Birding-Aus is now on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message 'unsubscribe
birding-aus' (no quotes, no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU