Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tooth-billed Bowerbird ~ by Ian Montgomery
I’m squeezing this bird of the week in between the Birds Australia Congress and Campout, which finished this morning, and my departure for California tomorrow. The Congress and Campout was a great success and ran like clockwork thanks to the preparation, dedication and hard work of our secretary and committee. I had a request from a participant to make the Golden Bowerbird – one of the highlights of the Campout – this week’s bird but this species starred in this role earlier this year. So, instead I’ve chosen the Tooth-billed Bowerbird and included a photo of the Golden Bowerbird, both being endemics of the Queensland wet tropics and inhabiting highland rainforest.
It’s not spectacular in appearance like the Golden Bowerbird, but it’s an interesting bird nevertheless. It doesn’t build a bower; instead it has a display platform consisting of an oval cleared space on the ground around a small tree trunk with a suitable branch used as a perch for singing above the platform. It decorates the platform with large, fresh leaves that the bird collects by using its serrated bill to chew through the leaf stem. The second photo shows a bird in full song and you can see the serrations on the bill, from which it gets the name. Like other bowerbirds, it is an accomplished songster and very good a mimicry. It is also fussy. Most bowerbirds are extraordinarily fussy in their choice of objects and colours to decorate the bowers. Tooth-billed Bowerbirds only use leaves, but the leaves are carefully chosen for appearance and laid upside down, with the paler surface uppermost. Apparently, if you turn them up the other way, the bird will put them back the correct way.
They usually start attending their display areas in September, so we were a bit early and I don’t think anyone actually saw one, though there were reports of hearing them. There was, however, some early activity and a couple of birds had several leaves in place. At the peak of the season, there may be up to 30 or so leaves, and these are replaced regularly with fresh ones. The Golden Bowerbirds had made an early start to and were decorating their bowers with pieces of lichen. The bird in the third photo, taken last Tuesday, has just added a piece to the bigger pile on the left and he is standing on the display perch between the two piles of twigs – ‘maypoles’ – that make up the typical bower of this species. The display perch is very important as it is where all the real action takes place, and you can see that this one is well worn.
You can expect an American as the next Bird of the Week. I’ve gone right off flying in recent years, so I’m getting the train to Brisbane for my flight to San Francisco. Unfortunately, there isn’t a convenient alternative to flying if you wish to cross the Pacific.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: email@example.com
Previous articles on Bowerbirds:
a j mithra’s – Golden Bowerbird