Jul 15, 2010

Avian architect

Have you ever heard of a Bowerbird? I hadn't until I picked up the July issue of National Geographic! What a fantastically amazing bird!! The male Bowerbird is an accomplished avian architect that has long fascinated scientists with its remarkably complex courting behavior. Instead of using just showy plumes or a romantic melody to attract a mate, the pigeon-sized bower bird constructs an elaborate structure — a bower — on the forest floor from twigs, leaves, and moss. It then decorates the bower with colorful baubles, from feathers and pebbles to berries and shells.

The bowers aren’t nests for raising kids; they are bachelor pads designed to attract and seduce one or more mates. When a female arrives to inspect the bower, the male struts and sings. He hopes to convince her to enter the bower, where mating takes place. The female then flies off to build a nest close by, leaving the male to try to convince another female to join in a romantic tryst.


A bower bird builds his “bachelor pad.” Overall, there are 17 kinds of bower birds in Australia and on the neighboring island of New Guinea. Some are known as catbirds, while others are called “gardeners” or “stagemakers.”
 Each builds its own shape of bower and prefers a different decorating scheme. A few, for instance, surround their bowers with carefully planted lawns of moss. Others have been known to steal shiny coins, spoons, bits of aluminum foil — even a glass eye — in an effort to create the perfect romantic mood. Some, like the iridescent blue Satin bower bird, the star of Bower Bird Blues, even “paint” the walls of their structures with chewed berries or charcoal. For the male Satin, which builds a U-shaped bower from parallel walls of twigs, the favored color is blue. To decorate its “avenue,” as scientists call it, he collects blue feathers, berries, shells, and flowers. While some of these decorations are found in the forest, others are stolen from the bowers of other males; young males, in particular, are prone to this petty thievery. However obtained, the precious knickknacks are then scattered around the bower. The male then waits, passing time by constantly fine-tuning his structure and rearranging the decorations.
 Go get a copy of National Geographic today and read up on these fascinating birds!! It's amazing to see how they decorate their "bowers", one in the article even drug a GI Joe plastic toy and a coke can into his love nest!

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