Bowerbirds are very close relatives of birds-of-paradise, and bowerbird species occur in many parts of New Guinea and Australia. Males weave intricate display areas (called bowers) out of twigs, decorating their bowers with saliva, charcoal, and colorful objects. As a result, bowerbirds are often considered to be the most advanced species of bird. A bower is an attractive 'avenue' that male bowerbirds use to entice a female. Adult male and female satin bowerbirds share the same bright lilac-blue eyes but no other similarities in color, the male being black with a sheen of glossy purple-blue, and the female olive-green above, with off-white and dark scalloping on her lower parts, with brown wings and tail. Juvenile males and females look similar to each other, known as 'green' birds.
Satin bowerbirds inhabit most of the east and south-east coast of Australia, living in humid woodlands and forests and their edges. They can be found in nearby open regions as well. During winter, flocks occur in open habitats such as gardens, parks and orchards. Bower sites are usually located in suitable rainforest and woodlands.
Habits and lifestyle
Adult males are mostly solitary; however, the 'green' birds often are seen in groups or fairly large flocks. In winter (outside the time of the breeding season), these birds move to more countryside that is more open, and occasionally go into orchards, at which time mature males may enter the 'green' bird flocks. This species is diurnal and they forage at all levels, fruits often being taken from the canopy, about 18-20 meters above the ground. They catch insects by gleaning and sallying. Foraging may be alone or in a family group, and sometimes with other fruit-eating birds. During winter, they will feed in flocks of as many as 200 birds, mainly eating plant matter. During feeding, younger birds will be dominated by adult males. These birds can make an amazing range of sounds, including, buzzing, whistling, and hissing. Males can also make a loud "weeoo". Outside of the breeding season, flocks can be vocally noisy.
Diet and nutrition
This species is polygynous and males may mate with a number of females during one season. At the start of the mating season, a male builds and decorates a bower to attract female birds. It is an avenue built from sticks and twigs and stick, woven into walls that run north to south. Platforms at each end are decorated with mostly blue objects, such as flowers, berries and feathers. When a female arrives, the male begins a ritualized display, prancing and strutting around his bower. He will offer the female objects from his collection, while making hissing, chattering and scolding sounds. If impressed, the female enters the bower to mate and then goes off to perform nesting duties by herself. The breeding season runs from late August to September and January. After she has mated, the female builds a shallow cup-shaped nest from sticks and twigs, in a bush or tree. She lays 1-3 eggs of pale brown with darker markings, which she will incubate for about 3 weeks. The chicks leave the nest when they are 17-21 days old and are dependent for food on their mother for several more weeks. They are reproductively mature at the age of 7 years.
Satin bowerbirds are relatively common in their remaining habitat, but they are Vulnerable to habitat loss, which results from the deforestation and fragmentation of the forests.
According to IUCN, the Satin bowerbird is fairly common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today remain stable.
Fun facts for kids
- When raising chicks, females often perform anti-predator behavior, chasing intruders away and displaying the “broken wing” distraction.
- With humans nearby, these birds will also use items made of plastic, like clothes pegs, as decoration for their bowers.
- Male bowerbirds do not develop the beautiful dark glossy plumage until they are about seven years old, and until then, look like females. This may allow younger males to avoid harassment by dominant male adults.
- Satin bowerbirds may mimic sounds made by other birds as well as humans. Females at nest sometimes mimic the calls of predators.
- Male bowerbirds have sometimes built teepeelike structures 9-foot-tall (2.7 meters) as their bower.
- Decorating a bower can involve mixing plant material and saliva to use as a “paint” to spread over the walls of the bower.