He'll kill for Blue

To: Syd Curtis <>, <>
Subject: He'll kill for Blue
From: Carol Probets <>
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 11:11:06 +1000
Hi Syd and all,

Yes, Satin Bowerbirds will use blue flowers as decoration for their bowers. I have especially seen this in bowers which are a long way from any towns or picnic areas. I think it's just that the majority of bowers that we see are close to human activity and when given the choice, plastic objects offer a brighter, more abundant and long-lasting resource for the birds. And, the fact that the flowers may rapidly wither means that we tend to overlook them in a bower that also contains man-made blue objects and feathers that remain "fresh". Bowers that I have come across in wilderness areas contained an array of blue (and yellow) flowers, feathers, berries, etc as well as the less obvious yellowish leaves, cicada shells - one even had a yellowish-brown huntsman spider which was still alive (just)! Basically I think they will collect anything available, as long as it's the right colour.

As for the bowerbird killing a bird for its feathers, I reckon this is most likely just the author's speculation, poetic licence to illustrate his point. People seeing such a collection of feathers might assume this is what happened, forgetting that birds moult every year which provides a good source of loose feathers in the environment.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy that quote and the author's way of describing the self-perpetuating nature of evolution "from the inside".



At 10:26 AM +1000 29/4/05, Syd Curtis wrote:
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

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