Satin Bowerbird questions: Yellow petals and advertisement calls

To: David Adams <>
Subject: Satin Bowerbird questions: Yellow petals and advertisement calls
From: Allan Richardson <>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2011 19:35:06 +1100
Hi Dave,

Satin Bowerbirds regularly use yellow. I've seen them with Hibbertia scandens 
flowers, as well as other lemon or yellow blossoms and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 
crest feathers as well. The bird who has taken up residence in our backyard 
includes pine tree sprigs that are a combination of yellow and green and 
recently has taken to adding yellow leaves from one of the neighbouring 
gardens. Of course he still has many blue items, but also chooses purple, the 
old egg cases of praying mantis (look like little yellow-brown styrene eggs), 
he's used a possum skull in the past, and snake skins are a regular for birds 
in a more natural setting.

The usual advertisement call of active males is a slightly descending grating 
call, almost a little reminiscent of a riflebird's hiss. Our bird and a number 
I have noted over the years usually advertise in the top of a tree above the 
bower. It may be possible that you have competing males if a bird is 
advertising some distance from where you're sure a bower is located?

Our bird has changed the location of his bower on a number of occasions, 
although it is impossible to know how many times the territory has changed 
hands, since the neighbours clear glass pool fence accounted for one male and 
my daughter found another adult male dead near the bower. The birds have used 
four different locations, but they usually favour only two, seeming to swap 
between them at least once a year in the past. However, the current bird has 
favoured the one he's using now for some time. When he changes bower location 
he also changes advertising location, so this may be another reason you are 
noticing a change in advertisement tree.

The rising and falling note that you describe sounds like the call I often hear 
as birds warm up their calling repertoire. The bower we have is attended by a 
mature and an immature male that the adult bird tolerates at the bower. A 
number of immature birds visit and these two chase them away, so the young 
males will go through display practice sessions from the canopy of surrounding 

If you are patient and quiet Bowerbirds will often tolerate observation from a 
distance even when displaying, and it may help you unravel your local mysteries.

I hope these observations are of some help.

Allan Richardson
Morisset NSW

On 25/11/2011, at 6:57 PM, David Adams wrote:

> There's an adult male Satin Bowerbird in my neighborhood that passes
> through my property on its way to and from where I presume its bower
> is. (I haven't crashed into the underbrush to confirm this as I don't
> want to disturb the bird at the bower.) Today, I saw the male land in
> the yard and actively collect yellow Dahlia flower petals. Do they
> normally collect yellow items? Every bower that I've ever seen for
> this species has been full of predominantly blue items and I can't
> remember anything bright yellow.
> Second question: Our back yard has a tall gum where the male Satin
> stops and pauses in the canopy. From this position, I can't ever
> remember him making a call. On the opposite side of the street, I
> regularly observer the same individual in a different tree at a
> similar height. In both cases, he's in the canopy and pretty well
> obscured from above - but in the second tree he makes a call that I
> only hear in this context. It doesn't sound like any of the usual
> growling/chortling/scratching/modem noises that I hear from other
> Satin Bowerbirds. Instead, it's a simpler call - a rising and then
> long falling note. (It seems pretty hopeless trying to describe calls
> in general, and I'm not particularly good at it on a good day.) In any
> case, the call is distinctive enough for me to recognize it, even at a
> distance. I've only ever heard it come  from an adult male Satin
> Bowerbird - never from any other Bowerbird in the area. I've been
> guessing for some time that this call is an advertisement for a bower.
> The tree he uses for this call has changed between years - he used to
> make this call about 50 meters away. In any case, I figure that if
> this a bower advertisement behavior, that it's probably pretty well
> known and widely observed. Does it sound like I'm on the right track
> here?
> Thanks for any comments,
> David Adams
> Near Bermagui, NSW
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