Killing for blue

To: "John Leonard" <>, "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Killing for blue
From: "Ricki Coughlan" <>
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 15:17:59 +1000
My experience of Satin Bowerbirds is that they frequently use yellow flowers along Lady Carrington Drive in the Royal National Park but not elsewhere. Obviously, it is all about availability. Blue feathers, yellow feathers, blue berries and some cicada shells, are popular along with man-made artefacts which include straws and bottle tops wherever I go. Caged birds may take to all kinds of abberant behaviour but as for wild birds killing other birds with blue feathers; this is speculation or poetic licence.
In response to a couple of queries:
>certainly if a bird stops tending its bower, they very quickly get stripped of the objects.
Bowerbirds will commonly steal off other birds in adjoining territories and this can be part of constant material gathering war for some individuals and often produces a great deal of transferal of parpaphernalia across a wide area. these birds will spend their entire life practicing their many courtship skills and rituals, such as dance, song, mimicry, etc.. They also make the renovation of their bowers a constant concern, along with a tireless search for the perfection of placement of paraphernalia. Theft is part of this ritual. Around August each year it is not uncommon to find every bower in a forest smashed to pieces by rival birds as they move toward the breeding season. Perhaps the actual owner of the bower may do so in preparation for renovation but I have not heard any robust evidence of this being the case. Certainly other species I have observed like to keep their bower in perpetuity, enhancing it every year. 
>Apparently the more elaborate the bower, the easier it is to attract a younger female.  Older females aren't that easily enticed therefore the male has to perform quite an elaborate dance to impress her if she is the only female available.  Is what I have heard wrong?
Interestingly, many human males might also note this: It is the young female birds which are attracted to novelty. Older females tend to be prepared to settle for old standards. It appears that this is a considerable driving force in the evolution of the class, as males which wish to entice the more fertile youngsters have to able to demonstrate considerable fitness in order to be able to rise to the winner of the "race for novelty". Thus we get bowerbirds, birds of paradise, Peafowl, Cock of the rock and actually the entire myriad of not so subtle devices and behaviour employed by male birds across the world in the courtship game. It's a fascinating area of study.
Broome Bird Observatory WA
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