Animal Species:Satin Bowerbird

A male Satin Bowerbird only develops his wonderful satiny sheen after seven years. Up until this time, the males possess the same plumage and colouring as the females.

Satin Bowerbird, male

G Little ©  Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Satin Bowerbird

Identification

Satin Bowerbirds are medium-sized birds. The adult male has striking glossy blue-black plumage, a pale bluish white bill and a violet-blue iris. Younger males and females are similar in colour to each other, and are collectively referred to as 'green' birds. They are olive-green above, off-white with dark scalloping below and have brown wings and tail. The bill is browner in colour. Young males may begin to acquire their adult plumage in their fifth year and are not fully 'attired' until they are seven.

Size range

27 cm to 33 cm

Similar Species

Green Catbirds

Distribution

Satin Bowerbirds are found along most of the eastern and south-eastern coast of Australia.

Habitat

Satin Bowerbirds prefer the wetter forests and woodlands, and nearby open areas, although those around the Atherton Tableland are largely rainforest inhabitants.

Seasonality

The mature male Satin Bowerbirds are mostly solitary, but the 'green' birds are often seen in groups or quite large flocks. In winter (outside of the breeding season), birds move to more open country, and occasionally enter orchards. At this time, mature males may join the 'green' bird flocks.

Feeding and Diet

Satin Bowerbirds feed mostly on fruits throughout the year. During summer (breeding) the diet is supplemented with a large number of insects, while leaves are often eaten during the winter months.

Communication

Satin Bowerbirds have an amazing variety of sounds, including whistles, buzzing and hissing, as well as mimicry. The male also gives a loud "weeoo".

Mating and reproduction

The male Satin Bowerbird is perhaps the best known and well documented of all the bowerbirds in Australia. This fame partially stems from its practice of building and decorating a bower to attract females. This consists of two parallel walls of sticks, is built on the ground, and is used as a courtship arena during the breeding season. The male decorates it with bright blue coloured objects that it collects; blue clothes pegs, drinking straws and bottle tops are among the favourite stolen items, while bright blue parrot feathers, flowers and brown snail shells, make up the majority of decorations away from human habitation. A mixture of chewed vegetable matter and saliva is used to paint the walls of the bower. The bower owner meticulously maintains it throughout the year. The breeding season runs from, and both mature and immature males build bowers and display to prospective females.

On the arrival of a female, the male Satin Bowerbird leaps into a ritualised display of exaggerated movements, such as strutting and bowing, with wings outstretched and quivering, and accompanied by a variety of mechanical-sounding calls, such as buzzing and rattling interspersed with mimicry. One of the bower decorations is usually carried in the male's bill. If impressed, the female moves into the bower avenue for mating and then leaves to perform the nesting duties on her own, while the male readies himself for courting more prospective females.

The female places a loose nest of sticks in a tree or bush, up to 30 m – 35 m above the ground.

  • Breeding Season: September through to about February
  • Clutch size: 2 to 3
  • Incubation: 21 days
  • Time in nest: 21 days

Classification

Species:
violaceus
Genus:
Ptilonorhynchus
Family:
Ptilonorhynchidae
Order:
Passeriformes
Class:
Aves
Subphylum:
Vertebrata
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  • Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
  • Schodde, R. and Tideman, S.C. (eds) 1990. Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (2nd Edition). Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney.
  • Strahan, R. (ed) 1996. Finches, Bowerbirds and Other Passerines of Australia. Angus and Robertson and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Simpson, K and Day, N. 1999. Field guide to the birds of Australia, 6th Edition. Penguin Books, Australia.


Ondine Evans , Web Researcher/Editor
Last Updated:

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