The Satin Bowerbird is a bird we have seen more recently as males attend their bowers and impress visiting females with the hope of mating with as many females as possible. To do this they seek to gain the prestige of having the most beautiful bower and trinkets, performing the most creative dance and singing the most skilful mimicry song. The male is blue-black and the female green and brown with a patterned chest, the juveniles are similar to the female but with less green and more brown in plumage.
Each male has spent weeks tirelessly building each strand of the bower from dried grass and sticks, collecting blue coloured objects (his jewels which match his own beautiful alluring colours) and positioning them in an impressive display. he has spent most of his life practicing building bowers and learning his own dance steps and peculiar song in a very similar way to the Lyrebird.
He knows there are several competing bowers in his local forest, and that these males may come at any time he is absent from the bower, to steal his blue trinkets or to ruin his bower. They all want the prize of impressing and mating with as many of the resident females as possible.
Female looks into bower, will she enter it?
Female examining bower
Female observes male and bower
Bowerbirds are endemic to the rainforest areas of the east coast of Australia and are primarily native fruit and insect eaters (mostly figs). Of our over 45 species of fig there is always one or more fruiting at any time of the year, as well as the fruit from both introduced and other native species. Similar to the Lyrebirds they are low flying birds and capable of mimicking other bird sounds.
The juvenile male looks the same as the female and takes seven years before it gains its mature black feathers and violet eyes. It is the refraction of light on the surface of the feathers that gives the glossy blue-black appearance.
Of our 8 species of Bowerbird (10 if we include our Catbirds which are in the same family) most build bowers and gather trinkets (some collect white or green objects, flowers or fruits to decorate their bower and attract female interest). Simply put, if the male is not smart, artistic and creative enough the female will notice it and fly off to view another bower. Males spend many hours repairing and improving their bowers as they search for blue objects. Researchers have found that when red objects are placed in the bower area, the Bowerbird will either remove them or cover them up.
All through Spring this flight of the females visiting bowers takes place, in a similar way men and women courting and dating, with ladies seeking out and ticking off the qualities they see in their aspiring suitors as they seek to impress. I had the amazingly rare opportunity to film the process of the female entering the bower and the male dancing for her. I apologise for the shaky camera as it is shot at quite a distance from the bower, up under a large tree (bowers are often hidden under trees or bushes). It was difficult to stabilise due to low angle I had to hold the camera.
Considering the the amount of time, great skill and creative effort that goes into the construction of the bower and the wooing of the female my thoughts are drawn to consider the difference between excellence and perfectionism. The pursuit of excellence is a healthy attitude to have because it is based on a realistic and positive understanding of who we are, accepting that we can strive to do better but it is OK if sometimes we make mistakes and or fail to meet our goals, we can learn from these and stay humble. However, perfectionistic attitudes, which are primarily bred in children from a young age, by perfectionistic, legalistic and negative parents and carers demanding a high level of performance and achievement in life, give the impression that one’s value comes from what they do and achieve, and is only acceptable when it is completed with perfection. As they constantly fail to reach their goal, even when they do exceedingly well, they are constantly under the stress of trying to achieve unrealistic goals to please their parents and themselves resulting ultimately in discouragement, depression and a sense of worthlessness. The child raised to exhibit excellence, however, can accept themselves for who they are, like a Bowerbird, as a teenager, he spends many hours practicing to build a bower, which will not be needed till years later. He makes mistakes but tries many times till he finally masters the art. He learns to dance and to mimic, knowing he may not be the best but he will give it his best shot, in the hope it will be acceptable when the time comes.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” – Colossians 3:23 (NIV)
Have a wonderful week and enjoy the birds. We put out a special call to our Aussie conservationists to help save our threatened Koala population click on this link.
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Last weekend we set off with some of our walking friends to the historic tiny township of St Albans to the annual Folk Festival, an event we love to attend. I have featured this in previous years posts, including the birds we saw there. It was raining a little but it did not dampen the spirits of many who attended. We stayed the night at The Retreat Resort at Wisemans Ferry near the bend in the mighty Hawkesbury River. Next morning after breakie we took a stroll in the reserve situated on the bend of the river near where the MacDonald River joins, and were amazed at the sound of many birds, especially the Noisy Friarbirds (living up to their name) feeding in the high eucalypt trees and lower Melaleuca (Paperbark Trees), which were all full of creamy white flowers.
The raucous call of the Noisy Friarbird could be heard all over the reserve as the small flock busily fed on the nectar from the flowers in the canopy.
While these birds look quite unusual, they are classified as honeyeaters all the same, following whatever blossom they can find. As blossom diminishes during the Winter months, the honeyeaters migrate to where they can find suffient nectar food. While all birds do live on an insect diet, this alone does not produce a healthy honeyeater, though some do eat more insects than nectar. People are often surprised to find that Australia has the largest number of honeyeaters, and wonder where they get all their nectar from. The honeyeaters have a specially designed tongue which laps up the nectar. Another bird feeding with the Friarbirds was the Red Wattlebird, yes, another honeyeater, with a call similar to the Friarbird.
We were excited to see this Blue-faced Honeyeater fly in to a palm.
Tree blossom not only attracts honeyeaters but flower eaters, which eat the nectar and the flower together. Many of our Lorakeets especially and also our Parrots include eucalypt flowers in their diet with native fruits and seeds. These Rainbow Lorikeets were noisily having a wonderful time in the blossom.
Eucalypt blossom being enjoyed
A female Australian King Parrot was also feeding, it lost its head having such a great time.
The most exciting find of the day was this small flock of Musk Lorikeets, a Lorikeet we seldom see. It also was feeding on the flowers with the other birds. This beautiful bird was difficult to see as it was constantly in among the blossom, and was so well camouflaged.
Here they are feeding…
What exactly does this ‘blossom’ look like and this unique tree with papery bark which grows in or by fresh water swamps and rivers?
Melaleuca (Paper Bark Tree)
Paper bark tree showing papery bark layers
Paper Bark Tree Blossom
The Satin Bowerbird, a native fruit eating bird, which eats insects, leaves and flowers, though it is not a honeyeater, was also sighted in the same trees, evading detection as they do, especially the males who are always camera shy. Notice how different the male is to the female. We did not find the bower.
Standing on the river, this small flock of Australian Wood Duck caught out sight both male and female. The male has the dark brown head. The male Wood Duck is one of the most faithful and ever present fathers I have ever seen in the bird world, while raising their young.
And what did little Willy Wagtail, who is purely insectivorous, think about all this hype about honeyeaters?
After a lovely quiet stroll through the reserve, we drove homeward, and as we did we passed tall eucalypt trees that sounded like a whole lot of bells chiming together. Of caourse these trees were full of the elusive and very difficult to spot, Bell Miner or ‘Bellbird’ as most know it. These birds, like other miners, are aggressive to other birds and take over large portions of forest, hence the loud sound of many bells, reflecting off the eucalypt leaves in a unique manner, similar to the Whipbird’s whip sound. Listen to their ringing, it can be quite deafening at times…
Here’s what they look like, birders know how to spot and photograph these difficult birds, which by their colour and rapid covert movement are so well camouflaged. These birds are insectivorous, but their main diet is a leaf insect beneath the eucalypt leaf called psyllids and their lerps (sugary secretions used as protective shelters by the tiny psyllid insects). They also eat nectar, though their beak is not designed for. These birds have a very complex community structure, my book explains this.
Bellbirds by Henry Kendall, a famous Australian poem, more famous for us because it was written not far from where I grew up, so our primary school class had to recite it in unison. The area where I would hear the bellbirds was on the side of a mountain, but it has a highway through it now and you can’t hear them any more. I remember seeing the waterfall near where he would sit, and where there was a rock bearing a plaque in his honour. Click on this YouTube link to see and hear the poem recited.
This old Kookaburra was watching us getting excited about the Musk Lorikeets and looked disgusted that we were not making a fuss over him…
So he just turned his back on us and sat alone in his tree, watching us out of the side of his eye.
It was a great find to see so many birds enjoying winter blossom supplied by our trees. We did see some roos resting and grazing by the road, they did not seem too amused, but made sure we did not approach as they rested in the warm autumn sun.
My thought for the day came from the headless female King Parrot.
This photo is an image of what appears to be a headless female King Parrot. One might suggest it is a fake, and the head was Photoshoppedout. But the one who took the photo knows it is genuine and saw the head return to the bird as it became upright. Many people find it difficult to believe in God, and that he Created them and all we know. This is because they can’t see his head, so they choose to believe that the picture has been tampered with, by stories fabricated from the past. For many it is easier to believe a lie, than that there may be a good explanation for this photo, which they may not have considered. Evolution has never been proved as the means by which life came about, Darwin himself confessed the lack of evidence to support this aspect of his Origin of the Species before he died. Our foundation beliefs affect how we view ourselves, others and how we live our lives. Hope or no hope.
“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” – Psalm 25:5
Check out my website Homepage for my latest pics of the Long-billed Corella and also check out my birding info pages. Have a wonderful weekend!
Following on with our rainforest series on birds found in Lamington Mountain National Park, we can not ignore the beautiful and amazing Bowerbird family. One can see three types of bowerbird here, and you will never see so many in one place at the same time as at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. The stunning Regent Bowerbird is best appreciated here, and is the logo for O’Reilly’s, appearing also on their carpet and bedding among other places.
Regent Bowerbird bedding
Regent Bowerbird carpet
You really have to see this bird to appreciate its stunning colours, especially when it flies. The three kinds of Bowerbird found here are the Regent and Satin Bowerbird and the Green Catbird which is actually a member of the Bowerbird family having its own unique characteristics, similar but different from the other two, which I will not go into great detail in this post. The reason they called bowerbirds is because the males build a beautifully constructed bower to attract and woo the female(s) so he can mate. All are endemic to the east coast of mainland Australia, especially the mid to north coast rainforests
Satin Bowerbird bower
Satin Bowerbird bower
The bowers of the Satin Bowerbird is seen above, there are many around O’Reilly’s and the males spend most of their time mending and maintaining their bowers, fixing the grass in the bower, searching for blue objects, or stealing them from other bowers nearby. While he is out stealing, another may be stealing from him. After he mates with the females, it is they who build the nest and raise their young alone, as he tends his bower. Yes he stands each blade of dead grass and shapes them to form his bower, he is quite the artistisan, and one’s bower must be at its best if one wants to attract the best sorts.
These trinkets of blue attract the female, as does his beautiful iridescent blue plumage. His aim is to attract the female to walk into and stand in his bower. When she does this, he will sing and dance in front of her with joy because she has accepted his love offerings, and afterwards he will mate with her.
As you can see there is a large difference between the male and female plumage in both the Satin and Regent Bowerbirds, The immature resemble the females until they mature, similar to many bird species. Notice the beautiful violet-blue of the male eye and the white beak. The unlearned sometimes confuse it with the Eastern Koel which looks similar but is black, has a white beak also, but a bright red eye.
I captured this female Satin Bowerbird having a stand off with the more dominant male King Parrot.
Here is an idea of the call of the female Satin Bowerbird. You can usually hear their zitting sound and mimickry but often they are hidden high in the tree canopy, usually a native fig tree, where they mainly feed. Bowerbirds like most passerine rainforest birds are fruit eaters.
male and female Regent Bowerbird
The Regent Bowerbird on the other hand is not so welcoming when it comes to showing off his bower, in fact he is so secretive about his bower that if he knows you have seen it, he will totally dismantle it within the hour and rebuild elsewhere. The alpha male or breeding male is depicted with a red patch on its head as you can see below, and he may attract several females at a time and breed with all of them. The female has a black patch on her head and again the female does the nesting and child care work, and likewise the juveniles look just like mum till they mature. The male builds a bower with a corridor of sticks and similar to the Satin Bowerbird spends much of his day guarding, maintaining and collecting items for his bower including forest fruits and plastic objects, He will rob from and destroy rival bowers nearby as well.
We also noticed this immature male starting to change plumage to his adult form with his head first.
Juvenile male Regent Bowerbird from behind
Juvenile male Regent Bowerbird changing
adult and immature Regent Bowerbirds
One of the features at O’Reilly’s is to feed the Regents from your hand as Glen Davis our personal guide and well known nature documentary film maker demonstrated. We were very blessed to have him come all the way up the mountain on his birthday to take us out.
But the the photos that most photographers want are the Regent male flight shots. This bird has a very rapid flight, which makes it challenging to photograph, especially in rainforest or at close range, but this is my effort.
Regent Bowerbird male in flight
Lastly the mysterious elusive Green Catbird, who is very skillful in camouflage, but very curious and will spy on you and follow you without you ever knowing. It usually dwells concealed high in the canopy. It also is a fruit eater, and uses the fruits it collects and places on an alter it constructs in a place where the light shines onto the ground through a break in the canopy. Here he will wait and be ready to offer his fruits to a willing female. If she accepts his offer he will mate with her. His concept of a bower is much simpler.
The female Satin Bowerbird is sometimes mistaken for this bird, but the sound of the bird gives it away. Early settlers would be quite alarmed when they first came into the forests, thinking a baby or woman was in distress, and would send out search parties to find them, but of no avail. Soon they realised it was a bird, Listen to this we heard it day and night in the rainforest.
Stay tuned for the next chapter in our rainforest series. You may like to review my post last year on the Great Bowerbird seen in Broome WA, which collects white objects to attract its mate. It is toward the end of this post.
It takes a lot of trust for a wild bird to land on the human arm or feed from the human hand, trust which has been developed over time with certain individuals. The birds know who are their friends, by the kind and generous offerings of food made to them, without any intent to harm. This is how God is to us, kind and generous, loving us continually, but are we aware enough of his good intent, to trust him, and reap the peace and security that comes from trusting him with our life?
“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” – Joel 2:13
For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. – John 3:16,17
Check out the new addition to my Home Page called Something Special which highlights some local findings that my wife and I have found.