21 August, 2008

Golden Bowerbirds build bachelor pads

Golden Bowerbirds build bachelor pads

The smallest of the bowerbirds is the Golden Bowerbird of north Queensland. Despite its size it builds the largest bower. Usually the bower consists of two towers joined by a bridge but in some places they build a second one on each side. The central bridge is decorated with lichens and fruit. In some instances it is decorated with flowers. I once saw a bower with seven flowers of a rare orchid. The friend with me at the time was an orchid fancier rather than a birder and was most distressed at the orchid's loss of reproductive potential due to the amorous intents of the bowerbird.
This bower is not a nest but a bachelor pad. It is the Ferrari sports car or Armani jacket of the bird world. It shows how fit the male is. Like athlete's attractiveness it is not his promise as a provider of goods but of good genes which makes him attractive. He will take no part in the nest building or raising of the young.

Before any of you males out there think that this is the life style, take a moment to reflect on the stress of the situation. He must start displaying now even though the females will not be interested in mating until December. He must maintain the bower throughout that period; building it with more sticks as they decay, keep it decorated, prevent other males from stealing his goodies and chase the young pretenders away if they get too uppity. The level of activity from the juvenile males which will trigger aggression from the 'old man' depends on his personality and varies greatly from bird to bird. Some males will allow uncoloured males to build substantial but undecorated bowers close to his while others will not tolerate a young male within 10 metres of the bower.

He must keep himself looking good as well and be on hand if females are checking out the local talent. To aid with feeding during this time birds will cache food. If you look at the tree below you will see a hole where a branch has broken off some time ago. This is the cache spot of this bird.

Despite this bower being on a road reserve, its presence is under threat of a logging operation to occur on the neighbouring private property. All these pictures were taken this afternoon.

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