Killing for blue

To: Birding-aus <>
Subject: Killing for blue
From: John Leonard <>
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 15:05:27 +1000

I have been monitoring a Satin Bowerbird bower in suburban bushland in Hughes, ACT, for about 18 months.


The habitat is very unlike wet schlerophyll, being a eucalyptus plantation sandwiched between suburban gardens and a golf course, but the plantation have an understorey of Cotoneaster bushes, which presumably supply enough berries to maintain Senor Bowerbird all year and the females perhaps only during breeding.


His bower is adorned with blue plastic objects gleaned from gardens (especially blue clothes pegs), and bluish berries from exotic shrubs. As an experiment I put in a pink biro and a pale blue Xmas tree bauble. Both were indignantly rejected within a few minutes (evidently the blue objects have to be darker than pale blue).


The bower is also decorated with yellow or pale buff objects: whitish berries and leaves from exotic shrubs, onion skins and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo crest feathers (the eucalyptus plantation is a favourite roosting spot for SCCs and doubt if the Bowerbird has to resort to murder to get these).


I observed 10 minutes of the courtship once: the female was hopping around the bower and through the grass and stick tunnel holding a spray of whitish foliage in her beak and wheezing, the male was following making a noise like a tin alarm clock and also simultaneously wheezing (dual syrinx effect?). He had a spray of bluish berries in his beak. On this occasion the female wasn't impressed enough as she didn't stay to mate; but it was quite early in the season (Sept) and it mightn't have been time to mate anyway.


What I thought was interesting was that the sexes each hold an object in their beak of their particular colour (blue = male, white/yellow = female) and that despite the abundance of artificial objects the male preferred to hold a natural object rather than a plastic one.


John Leonard

On 4/29/05, Brian Fleming <> wrote:
I think the ultmate source for the American quote on the Satin
Bowerbird  was originally collected by that 'bowerbird' of information,
the late Alec Chisholm. Somewhere in one of his popular books he
reported that a captive male Satin Bowerbird built a bower in its aviary
which contained a number of small birds as well. The SBB was found to be
killing Blue-faced parrot-finches and ornamenting his bower with the
   The only wild Satinbird bowers I have seen in Victoria were paved
with Rosella tail-feathers, with only a few 'human' objects added. One
in Fraser Nat. Park had a few blue straws, some cicada cases, some
yellowish berries, and in the centre the blue plastic plug from the
handbasin in the ablutions block.
Anthea Fleming
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John Leonard
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