Species profile

Satin Bowerbird

Satin Bowerbird

Range and abundance

Satin bowerbirds are found within wet sclerophyll forests and rainforests along the eastern coast of Australia.

Description

Satin Bowerbirds are medium-sized birds reaching 27 – 33 cm in length. Adult males have glossy blue-black plumage and a violet-blue iris. This plumage is likely to be particularly impressive in ultraviolet, which birds can perceive. Young males resemble females with olive-green plumage above, off-white feathers with dark scalloping below, brown wings and tail. Satin Bowerbirds have an amazing variety of calls including whistles, buzzes and hisses; they are mimics and imitate the sounds of other birds. Males also have a loud descending "weeoo" call.

Ecology

The Satin Bowerbird is probably the best known of all Australian bowerbirds, as it occurs along the densely settled east coast. Males construct an intricate and carefully decorated bower to use as a courtship arena during the breeding season. The bower is an arching structure built on the ground out of interlaced sticks, decorated with blue and/ or interesting objects: parrot feathers, flowers and brown snail shells in nature; clothes pegs, drinking straws and bottle tops around human habitation.

Male Satin Bowerbirds tend their bowers throughout the breeding season. A number of bowers are usually found in one area (a ‘lek’), such that females can readily evaluate the quality of competing males. When a female approaches a bower, the male will leap into a ritualised display of exaggerated movements, strutting and bowing with wings outstretched and quivering, accompanied by a variety of mechanical-sounding calls, buzzing and rattling interspersed with mimicry, while carrying one of the bower’s decorations in his bill. If suitably impressed, the female moves into the bower avenue to mate. Females perform the nesting duties on their own while males devote their time to courting prospective partners.

The ‘lek’ mating system drives rapid sexual selection in bowerbirds and other species with similar breeding behaviour, such as the birds of paradise. These species typically evolve elaborate plumage and courtship behaviours, as the most ‘persuasive’ males end up fathering most of the young. The Satin Bowerbird displays both striking plumage and elabourate courtship rituals.

Satin Bowerbirds feed mostly on the fruits of rainforest plants such as lilly-pillies (Syzygium species) throughout the year. During summer, which is the breeding season, their diet is supplemented with insects.

Threats

Satin Bowerbirds are vulnerable to predation from feral cats and foxes because their bowers are constructed on the ground. Large parts of their habitat have been lost to clearing.

 


What is AWC doing?

AWC protects rainforest and wet sclerophyll habitat used by Bowerbirds at Curramore, Mount Zero-Taravala and Brooklyn, and implements feral animal control.

Did you know:

Male bowerbirds only develop their beautiful dark glossy plumage when they are around seven years old. Up until then, males resemble females. This ‘ruse’ may permit younger males to escape harassment by dominant mature males.