Satin Bowerbird

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Satin Bowerbird

Paul and Chris Coffey contacted ‘Burke’s Backyard’ to tell us that satin bowerbirds were constructing a bower in their garden. John Dengate visited the Coffeys and had a look at the bower, which he says was built by a group of juvenile males. Bowerbirds are closely related to tropical birds of paradise, and many species are found in Australia and New Guinea. They are often regarded as the most intelligent and advanced of all birds, because they use tools to construct their bowers.

Satin bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)

The satin bowerbird is commonly found in the rainforests or eucalypt forests of eastern Australia. Mature males have glossy purple-black plumage, violet eyes and a greenish yellow beak. Females are dull green and bluish grey, with a yellowish scalloped breast and abdomen. Immature males resemble the females in colour until their 7th year, when they acquire their full adult plumage.

In the mating season male satin bowerbirds construct elaborate display areas, or ‘avenue’ bowers. They place sticks into the ground to form walls running in a north-south direction. The sticks are painted on the inside with saliva and charcoal. At each end of the avenue is a platform, which the bird decorates with blue objects, including berries, flowers, electrical wire, blue bottle tops, feathers and blue clothes pegs. The bird spends most of its time in the bower displaying and calling to attract females. Young green males build practice bowers, but often their bowers are smashed and their blue ornaments are stolen by older birds. This is what happened in the Coffey’s garden.

Attracting wildlife

You can attract native wildlife to your garden by putting in suitable plants, making fresh water available and providing protection from predators such as dogs and cats. If you live in a bushland area, you may even be able to attract bowerbirds to your garden. The birds in the Coffey’s garden built their bower in a murraya maze (Murraya paniculata) but John suggests planting mahonias (Mahonia lomariifolia) to attract bowerbirds. Mahonias have yellow flowers and blue berries which the birds love. If you already have some interesting native animals or birds visiting your garden, why not write and tell us about it? Send your letter to:

Burke’s Backyard
PO Box 929
Willoughby NSW 2068

Further information

The Coffey’s garden is at Grose Vale, New South Wales, and is open from time to time under Australia’s Open Garden Scheme.