Hidden in a small clearing, between the bushes at the bottom of the vegetable garden at my work is a bower from the Satin Bower bird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus). These birds are commonly seen in our vegetable garden, feeding on scraps in the compost heaps, tearing the ends of our lettuces and silverbeet and hopefully eating a few of our insect pests while they are at it!
Satin bower birds are about 30cm in size and are found along most of the east and south-east coast of Australia. The immature males and the female birds are both olive green in colour with a cream-brown scalloping on their chest and brown wings and tail and will often live in small flocks. The mature male obtains his beautiful glossy blue-black plumage between the ages of five and seven and defends his own territory. Males then build and decorate a bower as a courtship arena to attract the females during the breeding season which starts in early spring.
The bower is build on the ground and consists of two parallel walls of sticks decorated with bright blue objects, younger males also use yellow objects as decoration. The Bower bird at my work has used blue baling twine, feathers, bottle tops, a pen, clothes pegs, a blue cookie cutter and blue foil wrappers to decorate his bower. He would have performed an elaborate dance while carrying one of these blue objects in his bill near the bower to attract a female early in spring.
If the female is impressed enough with his efforts, mating takes place in the bower. The female lays upto 3 eggs in a nest loosely built of sticks in a bush or tree about 10-15m off the ground somewhere nearby. She cares for the young on her own as the male will go on to mate with numerous other females.
It’s worth retaining native habitat on your land wherever you can do so, to ensure that these amazing birds and other Australian wildlife species can survive and continue to fascinate future generations.