Ian’s Bird of the Week – Green Catbird

 Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 1

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Green Catbird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 12/18/12

My trip to Sydney produced another bird on my wanted list that I had taken only poor photos of before, the Green Catbird. It’s not rare or, given its calls, hard to find in its favourite habitat of temperate and sub-tropical rainforest, but most birds apart from things like Brush-Turkeys are hard to photograph in rainforest. It’s call is not as one might expect a gentle miaowing but more like a cat being given an injection at the vets or those rude sounds make with balloons and as such, is one of the delights of east coast rainforest.

Australian Catbirds, unrelated to American Catbirds, are members of the Bowerbird family. Unlike their flamboyant cousins, they form pair-bonds and the males help in domestic chores like nest-building. So, eschewing wild mating behaviour, they don’t build wonderful bowers or collect flashy toys. Everything has its price, one supposes, but the call is some compensation. At 24-32cm/10-13in in length, they’re comparable in size to Satin Bowerbirds and, if silent in foliage, can be confused with female or immature members of that species.

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 2

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 2

The generic name Ailuroedus comes from the Greek ailouros for cat and odos for a singer, which is stretching the definition of singer slightly, but maybe singing embraces yodelling. The range of the Green Catbird extends from the south coast of New South Wales (Narooma) to near Gladstone on the central coast of Queensland. In tropical Queensland it is replaced by the very similar-looking and similar-sounding Spotted Catbird which featured as Bird of the Week in 2006 (below).

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 3

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 3

The ‘Spotted’ presumably refers to the stronger markings on the breast as the Green Catbird has more obvious white spots on the back (second photo) but the main difference is the darker markings on the face of the Spotted Catbird. As their ranges don’t overlap, distinguishing between them isn’t an issue. The Spotted Catbird extends from Paluma Range National Park, near Bluewater where I live to Cooktown and there is a separate population, recognised as a different race with darker face markings, on Cape York (e.g. Iron Range). In the past, both Green and Spotted were treated as a single species and some of the splitters would like to make the Cape York race a full species, another tick I suppose. There are other races of the Spotted in New Guinea and another species, the White-eared Catbird, A. buccoides.

Best wishes
Ian

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Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates


Lee’s Addition:

The Green Catbird is part of the Ptilonorhynchidae – Bowerbirds Family which has three Catbirds, the White-eared Catbird (Ailuroedus buccoides), Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) and the Spotted Catbird (Ailuroedus melanotis). Ian has the family as Australian Catbirds & Bowerbirds.

Dan and I were able to see a White-eared Catbird (Ailuroedus buccoides) this year at the Zoo Miami. Most of the time when I think of a Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), it is ours  which is in a completely different family. (Mimidae – Mockingbirds, Thrashers) The Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) is also part of that family. The 6th Catbird, Abyssinian Catbird (Parophasma galinieri) is in yet another family (Sylviidae – Sylviid Babblers).

See more of Ian’s Bird of the Week adventures.

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Formed By Him – Bowerbirds

Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) in bower by Ian

Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) in bower by Ian

An interesting article from News to Note – Sept 18, 2010 issue talks about the Bowerbird and it’s ability to use special optical effects. The article is discussing Physorg.com’s information on the elaborate bowers the bird makes.

“Bowerbird males are well known for making elaborate constructions, lavished with decorative objects, to impress and attract their mates. Now, researchers reporting online on September 9 in Current Biology have identified a completely new dimension to these showy structures in great bowerbirds. The birds create a staged scene, only visible from the point of view of their female audience, by placing pebbles, bones, and shells around their courts in a very special way that can make objects (or a bowerbird male) appear larger or smaller than they really are.” (Physorg.com)

The scientist are trying to figure out about this aesthetically appealing ability. They noticed that the bird places articles from smaller to larger as the bower is approached. When they rearranged the articles, the Bowerbird changed them back. He is trying to give an allusion they think.

Spotted Bowerbird (Chlamydera maculata) by Ian

Spotted Bowerbird (Chlamydera maculata) by Ian

News to Note concludes with this:

“Evolutionists often seek to find natural explanations for distinct human aspects like aesthetics, moral consciousness, and self-consciousness. The bowerbirds’ apparent art appreciation seems to allow the most genetically fit to survive according to biologist Gerry Borgia of the University of Maryland. But do male bowerbirds intellectually conceive the idea of the optical illusion, and do female bowerbirds intentionally judge the design as artistic?

Rather than an intellectual intention towards art, the great bowerbird instinctively builds remarkable structures, and the female instinctively responds to the optical effect, as programmed by the Creator. Only man, created in the image of God, has a true aesthetic sense. When appreciating the beauty and design of creatures like the bowerbird, the wise aesthetic judge praises the Creator of both art and beauty.”

The two articles are interesting and of course, the one from Answers in Genesis, News to Note – Sept 18, 2010, issue gives the creationist view of this.

From another article:

” the male bower bird, 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….they are of special interest to scientists seeking to understand how such complex traits evolve and function.”

Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) at bower by Ian

Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) at bower by Ian

“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. (from Nature)

And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” (Genesis 1:22 NKJV)

That verse answers it for me. God created them with that “complex trait.”


Information about the Bowerbird:

They are in the Ptilonorhynchidae – Bowerbirds Family of the Passeriformes Order. There are 21 species in the family in 9 different genus. There are 3 Catbirds and an Piopio included in the family.

Bowerbirds and catbirds make up the bird family Ptilonorhynchidae. These are medium-sized passerines, ranging from the Golden Bowerbird (22 cm and 70 grams) to the Great Bowerbird (40 cm and 230 grams). Their diet consists mainly of fruit but may also include insects (fed to young), flowers, nectar and leaves in some species.

The bowerbirds have an Austro-Papuan distribution, with ten species endemic to New Guinea, eight endemic to Australia and two found in both. Although their distribution is centered around the tropical regions of New Guinea and northern Australia, some species extend into central, western and southeastern Australia. They occupy a range of different habitats, including rainforest, eucalyptus and acacia forest, and shrublands.

Bowerbirds are most known for their unique courtship behaviour, where males build a structure and decorate it with sticks and brightly coloured objects in an attempt to attract a mate.

The catbirds are monogamous and raise chicks with their mate, but all other bowerbirds are polygymous, with the female building the nest and raising the young alone. These latter species are commonly sexually dimorphic, with the female being more drab in color. Female bowerbirds build a nest by laying soft materials, such as leaves, ferns, and vine tendrils, on top of a loose foundation of sticks. They lay one or two eggs, which hatch after 19 to 24 days, depending on the species.

The most notable characteristic of bowerbirds is their extraordinarily complex courtship and mating behaviour, where males build a bower to attract mates. There are two main types of bowers. One clade of bowerbirds build so-called maypole bowers that are constructed by placing sticks around a sapling; in some species these bowers have a hut-like roof. The other major bowerbuilding clade builds an avenue type bower made of two walls of vertically placed sticks. In and around the bower the male places a variety of brightly colored objects he has collected. These objects — usually different among each species — may include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even discarded plastic items, coins, nails, rifle shells, or pieces of glass. The males spend hours arranging this collection. Bowers within a species share a general form but do show significant variation, and the collection of objects reflects the biases of males of each species and its ability to procure items from the habitat, often stealing them from neighboring bowers. Several studies of different species have shown that colors of decorations males use on their bowers match the preferences of females.

In addition, many species of bowerbird are superb vocal mimics. Macgregor’s Bowerbird, for example, has been observed imitating pigs, waterfalls, and human chatter. Satin bowerbirds commonly mimic other local species as part of their courtship display. (Wikipedia)

(Information from various Internet sources.)
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Articles here on the Blog about Bowerbirds:

Golden Bowerbird by A.J.Mithra
Ian’s Bird of the Week:
Tooth-billed Bowerbird
Spotted Bowerbird
Golden Bowerbird

More Formed By Him articles


Family#126 – Ptilonorhynchidae
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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tooth-billed Bowerbird

Tooth-billed Bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris) by Ian

Tooth-billed Bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tooth-billed Bowerbird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter 8-20-10

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.

Tooth-billed Bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris) by Ian

Tooth-billed Bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris) by Ian

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.

Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) by Ian

Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) by Ian

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.

Best wishes,
Ian

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:

The Bowerbirds are in the Ptilonorhynchidae – Bowerbirds Family. The family has 17 Bowerbirds and 3 Catbirds in it and they are part of the Passeriformes Order (Songbirds).

Previous articles on Bowerbirds:

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spotted Bowerbird and the Golden Bowerbird

a j mithra’s – Golden Bowerbird


Family#126 – Ptilonorhynchidae
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