Bird of the Week: Spotted Bowerbird
I’ve recently been updating the Bowerbird galleries on the website, including those of the Satin, Great Bowerbirds and Spotted. Both the Satin and Great have featured as bird of the week in the past, so here is the Spotted Bowerbird. It is closely related to the similar Great Bowerbird, but is smaller (to 30cm/12in in length compared with 38cm/15in) and much more richly coloured, buff and brown, rather than fawn and greyish-brown. It also has a pink erectile crest on the nape used in display, more prominent on the male but smaller or absent in females and young birds.
Both the photos were taken near the roadhouse at Belyando Crossing, the only place where you can get petrol and food on the 400km stretch between Charters Towers and Clermont on the inland route south of Townsville, and a reliable spot for this species. In the first photo, the bowerbird is showing interest in the mango, remains of my breakfast, currently being commandeered by a Blue-faced Honeyeater. If you look carefully, you can see the crest, but it is more obvious in the second bird which is displaying to another one, out of sight below.
The Spotted Bowerbird is a bird of mainly inland eastern Australia, though it reaches the coast in central Queensland. It occurs widely in Queensland, though absent from the north where it is replaced by the Great, and in New South Wales as far south as the border with Victoria and southeastern South Australia. It is common in the northern part of its range, but rarer in the south. It is replaced in central western regions of Australia (southern Northern Territory, central Western Australia and northwestern South Australia by the similar but darker Western Bowerbird. These three all belong to the genus Chlamydera, and in northern Cape York and Papua New Guinea there is a fourth species, the Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, while a fifth species, the Yellow-breasted Bowerbird, is found in New Guinea but not in Australia.
The males of all these bowerbirds build avenue bowers consisting of two parallel walls, like that of the Satin Bowerbird but unlike the maypole bower of the Golden Bowerbird that was illustrated 4 weeks ago when it featured as bird of the week. All five species collect white and green objects, and seem to show an almost fetishistic preference for shiny objects – stones and shells, historically, but nowadays glass and metal. Only the three southern species have pink crests and these three all collect red objects; the Fawn- and Yellow-breasted Bowerbirds lack the crests and I cannot find any reference to their collecting red objects. Young birds, presumably males, also collect objects in juvenile display areas that lack a proper bower. The third photo, shows one of these, playing with a blue plastic bottle ring, perhaps an indiscriminate choice of exuberant youth!
On the subject of bowerbirds, the attached photo of a Golden Bowerbird has been chosen as the icon for the upcoming Birds Australia Congress and Campout in Townsville in August; .
Photos of Satin, Golden, Great, Spotted and Fawn-breasted (but not Western) Bowerbirds: http://www.birdway.com.au/ptilonorhynchidae/index.htm.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Golden Bowerbird by A. J. Mithra
If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young: But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7 KJV)