A client and I were working away in the Rocky Springs office today when he asked “What is that racket outside?” The racket, as he so aptly described, was our resident Spotted Bowerbird, and his antics each year let me know spring has truly arrived.
The male bowerbirds are renowned for constructing elaborate arched bordellos known as bowers, with a leading trail of female-attracting décor. The bower is built from grasses and the decorations may include just about anything this 30cm bird can thieve – as long as it is of the appropriate colour. The Satin Bowerbirds of eastern Australia have a penchant for the colour blue, but the Spotted Bowerbirds are partial to white and green with the odd foray into lustful red.
I first encountered our resident male bowerbird not long after we had moved to Rocky Springs when I established a vegetable garden. I had diligently planted seeds and marked each variety with a label made from old plastic milk bottles. I came out the following day to find every label gone. A later search of the garden found, under the oleander tree, the bowerbird, his bower and all my labels. He had flogged every one.
Vege labels aside, the staples for the leading path to his bower are white/grey in colour and are generally bones, clear glass and shiny objects. In the bower itself he lays out his array of greens – green glass and green cherry tomatoes being favourites. I sprung him the other day thieving the green tomatoes from my current garden and he squawked and protested as I chased him away.
Suspiciously, his dalliance with the colour red tends to coincide with the ripening of my tomatoes, but it doesn’t stop there. One day I was enjoying a good book and a soft-drink while sitting on the front steps. I put the bottle lid beside me and, lost in the pages, failed to notice as the thief made off with the red lid. He is as cheeky as the day is long.
His bower is remarkable enough but his antics bring a smile each day. He poses and struts, swaggers and flaunts, hisses and scolds. On the back of his neck he has a splash of bright pink. When I can photograph him un-noticed the splash is almost inconspicuous,
but as soon as he hears the shutter click, he moves into full display mode and fluffs out his bright pink feathers. Talk about a supermodel!
In the early days of spring there is a daily noisy battle as other males come to his bower in an attempt to steal his treasures but so far he has been victorious and it is not long before the females line up. The bower really is all about making-out and once the deed is done the females retreat to a plain scrappy nest to lay eggs and raise the next generation. The male just keeps on strutting.
Our resident bowerbird has even earned Brian’s admiration as we recently found several stainless-steel nuts at the entrance to the bower. “The little buggar has even been into the workshop,” said Brian.
So if you are looking for a little entertainment in your life I can recommend a bowerbird. He will be less than melodious with his constant squawking and he will thieve most anything, but he is a true character of the bird-world.