Bowerbird: Decorator, Singer, Dancer… Ideal Boyfriend?

It’s Wednesday! You know what that means! Time to learn about something wild and wacky about that part of the animal world we don’t think about much. So lets talk about the bowerbird and this species’ ostentatious mating habits. Now the last weird animal Wednesday, fondly known as Hump Day, I discussed the absurd echidna. I was not so keen on the idea of life as a female echidna, but the bowerbird is a different story. I mean who wouldn’t want to be wooed with sparkly, color-coordinated goodies?! Sign me up!

Bowerbird by Flickr user Sunphlo
Bowerbird by Flickr user Sunphlo

The bowerbird is found in New Guinea and Australia mostly living it’s life in rainforests. There are 20 different species of bowerbirds, they make up the family Ptilonorhynchidae, and they come in many different colors. Some bowerbirds are a drab brown-grey whereas others are bright yellow and orange with ruffs and long feathers. But what all bowerbirds have in color is that the men are excellent decorators.

Male bowerbirds have to spend a lot of time and effort to attract a mate. They build intricate, and in my humble opinion, absolutely beautiful, bowers, and then surround them with brightly colored objects. What I find most fascinating is that different species actually prefer different colors. So some species might use only blue and red objects, while another might use exclusively green objects.

Regent bowerbird by Flickr user Seabamirum
Regent bowerbird by Flickr user Seabamirum

The bowerbird actually gets its name because the ‘nests’ it builds are called bowers. I put apostrophes around ‘nest’ because it is simply the structure which the bowerbird decorates to attract a mate, and isn’t used for rearing young. Some have tunnels, roofs, or towers, and many bowerbirds actually paint their bowers with charcoal or juices from vegetation and saliva.

Once the male bowerbird has built and decorated his bower, which can take several months, he then begins to sing and dance to attract a mate, who will only give him the time of day if she finds his bower attractive and his song and dance routine appealing.

Since human encroachment has taken away a lot of their natural habitat the bowerbirds have shown the world how creative they are once more. Instead of faltering under humanity’s constant need to litter in beautiful wild areas, they have used it to their advantage and will actually collect trash to use to decorate their bowers.

Satin Bowerbird Bower by Flickr user 鵬智 賴
Satin Bowerbird Bower by Flickr user 鵬智 賴

Bowerbirds are proof that nature can reclaim and make anything beautiful. So let’s raise a glass to the bowerbirds, our ideal bird-version husbands who will not scoff at repainting the living room, but instead show us just how to mix and match those colors, before serenading us and taking us dancing. Ahh… to be a bowerbird!

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