Ian’s Bird of the Week – Golden Bowerbird

Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) by Ian

Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) by Ian

Newsletter – 02-28-2010

Searching for a suitable Bird of the Week, I found that the Golden Bowerbird hasn’t, I don’t think, featured as BOW before. That’s a serious omission which we’ll now rectify. It’s serious because all bowerbirds are special, the Golden Bowerbird is particularly gorgeous, its a local specialty and it’s survival is of real concern in the case of global warming.

The adult male Golden Bowerbird is golden-yellow below and glossy golden-olive above, with a yellow erectile patches on the nape and crown. The rarely-seen female is, in comparison, a rather drab olive-brown (there’s a photo of one on the Birdway website, link below). With a length of 23-25cm/9-10 in, it’s the smallest of the Australian Bowerbirds but, as compensation, it builds the biggest bower. It is found only in highland rainforest in the wet tropics of northeastern Queensland from Mount Elliott near Townsville north to Mount Cook near Cooktown. It nest only above 900m/3,000ft, but moves lower in winter. A good place to see them is near Paluma, about one hour’s drive from where I live.

Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) at bower by Ian

Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) at bower by Ian

Most Australian Bowerbirds, such as the Satin Bowerbird, build ‘avenue’ bowers consisting of two parallel walls of twigs on a display platform. The Golden Bowerbird builds a ‘maypole’ bower, consisting of at least two columns, each consisting of sticks arranged around a sapling. This can be up to 3m/10ft in height but more typically is about 1m high like the one in the photo. Between the saplings is a branch used as a display perch and the male bird decorates this with lichens and rainforest flowers, often orchids. The bowers are often incorrectly referred to as ‘nests’, but the bowers are built and maintained by the males to attract females for mating and the females build their own nests. If the male bowerbird disappears, the bower will be taken over by another male so a particular site remains in use used decades.

The concern about global warming arises because their habitat consists of islands of highland rainforest in a sea of coastal lowlands. If warming eventuates, the boundaries of the highland rainforest may rise in altitude and the islands may ultimately disappear. The Golden Bowerbird has iconic status here, but other species would be affected too, such as the Mountain Thornbill. Consequently, Paluma Range has been classified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and monitoring of the bowers of Golden Bowerbirds is undertaken by Birds Australia North Queensland.

Best wishes,

Golden Bowerbird
Satin Bowerbird
Mountain Thornbill
Birds Australia North Queensland

Recent additions to Website include photos of:
Spotted Bowerbird
Superb Fruit-Dove
Little Bronze-Cuckoo
Australian Brush-Turkey
Australian Bustard
Long-tailed Finch

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au

Lee’s Addition:

Bowerbirds are in the Ptilonorhynchidae family of the Passeriformes order.

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth And makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’ (Job 35:11 NASB)



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