Great Bowerbird


Peering through the parted waves of grasses in a greater bowerbird’s bower (Chlamydera nuchalis)— for valentine’s day. Bowerbirds belong to the family Ptilonorhynchidae and are distributed across Australia and Papua New Guinea. What is most striking about bowerbirds is their courtship behavior. Males will construct an elaborate and meticulously-arranged bower to attract females. The bowers vary from circular arrangements around a sapling (maypole bowers) to hut-like refuges made of sticks and grasses. Bowers are really fun to find because it becomes a treasure hunt to see what the birds have managed to pick up in both natural and anthropogenic habitats. Even within a species there is substantial variation in item selection, and in high abundances males will regularly snatch items already procured in neighboring bowers.

The greater bowerbird’s bower consists of a patch of vertical grasses with a tunnel going straight through the center surrounded by two walls that are arched inwards. Smooth gray stones, bottle caps, and miscellaneous objects are placed outside the exits of the bower in two piles, consisting of dozens to hundreds of them, each one evaluated and selected by the male at work. The stone color arrangement seemed almost dichromatic, with most pebbles lying near the dark and light ends of the brightness spectrum. Pieces of green glass were confined to one small area, and other atypical items included a spoon, green bouncy ball, a screw, tin foil, two straws, and the occasional bone. A single blue bottle cap was placed at the edge of one of the piles. Perhaps the male was intrigued though unconvinced by the peculiarly-colored item. Finally, at the center of the bower lay a small pile with items of speciality including clear glass and a single soda tab.

On the crown of male greater bowerbirds there is a patch of magenta iridescence. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take very many photos of this species. Photographed after pursuit [3]

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