Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Bird in the Bush

If you've been reading my blog for long, you know that I've become a bit of a birder during my time in Australia.  With all of the brightly colored parrots nearby, it's hard not to become one.  My favorite bird so far, though, is not fashionably hued or particularly large in size.  In fact, if you saw him on the side of the road, you would just think he was a crow. 


This unassuming little guy is the Satin Bowerbird and his appeal lies in his courtship rituals.  Every spring, he toils away, collecting the perfect twigs to build a bower.  Then, he collects trinkets with which to decorate the walkway to his bower.  There are several species of bowerbirds and some collect shiny objects, some collect bones, and the Satin Bowerbirds collect blue objects. 
Credit: Science/AAAS; (inset) J. J. Harrison/Creative Commons

Scientists have recently discovered that bowerbirds arrange the objects so that the larger ones are further away from the bower.  Thus, when the female is standing inside the bower, the trinkets all appear to be the same size.  This illusion is known as "forced perspective," and the better arranged the objects, the better the chance the male has in attracting a mate.

We've seen quite a few of these bowers and while camping at the beach, we even saw a bowerbird in the midst of a courtship dance.

In case you're wondering, the bower is not a nest.  After the courtship, the female bowerbird goes off to her already built nest and raises her chicks on her own.  Perhaps not the perfect romance, but you have to give the male credit for his blue diligence.

3 comments:

  1. I love this - I actually saw a Planet Earth episode that talked all about the bower birds and showed them making the bower, so cool!!!!!!!

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  2. This is fascinating. I know that magpies are attracted to shiny objects but it doesn't seem that their attraction has any purpose like the bowerbirds. And how amazing that you get to see them up close. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I think I saw these guys on Planet Earth too- how cool that you have seen them in real life. I love it!

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