name = Bowerbirds

image_caption = Male Satin Bowerbird "Ptilonorhynchus violaceus"
image_width = 250px
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Passeriformes
subordo = Passeri
familia = Ptilonorhynchidae
familia_authority = GR Gray, 1841
subdivision_ranks = Genera
subdivision = "Ailuroedus" "Amblyornis" "Archboldia" "Chlamydera" "Prionodura" "Ptilonorhynchus" "Scenopooetes" "Sericulus"

"This article is about the species of bird called bowerbird. For the band, see Bowerbirds (band)."

Bowerbirds (IPAEng|ˈbaʊərˌbɜrd) and catbirds make up the family Ptilonorhynchidae. All are medium-sized birds, ranging from the Golden Bowerbird (22 cm and 70 grams) to the Great Bowerbird (40 cm and 230 grams). Although their distribution is centered around the tropical northern part of Australia-New Guinea, some species extend into the central Australian desert and the cold mountainous regions of southeast Australia. The diet of bowerbirds consists predominantly of fruit, but may also include insects, flowers, and leaves in some species.

Note that the Gray Catbird ("Dumetella carolinensis") and Black Catbird ("Melanoptila glabrirostris") from the Americas and the Abyssinian Catbird ("Parophasma galinieri") from Africa are unrelated birds that belong to different families.

Mating behaviour

The catbirds are monogamous and raise chicks together, but all other bowerbirds are polygynous, with the female building the nest and raising the young alone. These latter species are sexually dimorphic, with the female being drab in color. Bowerbirds build nest by laying soft materials, such as leaves, ferns, and vine tendrils on top of a loose foundation of sticks. They lay one or two eggs, which hatch after 19 to 24 days, depending on species.cite book |editor=Forshaw, Joseph|author= Frith, Clifford B.|year=1991|title=Encylcopedia of Animals: Birds|publisher= Merehurst Press|location=London|pages= 228-331|isbn= 1-85391-186-0]

The most notable characteristic of bowerbirds is the extraordinarily complex behaviour of males, which is to build a bower to attract mates. Depending on the species, the bower ranges from a circle of cleared earth with a small pile of twigs in the center to a complex and highly decorated structure of sticks and leaves — usually shaped like a walkway, a small hut or a maypole — into and around which the male places a variety of objects he has collected. These objects — usually strikingly blue in hue — may include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even discarded plastic items or pieces of glass. The bird spends hours carefully sorting and arranging his collection, with each object in a specific place; if an object is moved while the bowerbird is away he will put it back in its place. No two bowers are the same, and the collection of objects reflects the personal taste of each bird and its ability to procure unusual and rare items (going as far as stealing them from neighboring bowers). At mating time, the female will go from bower to bower, watching as the male owner conducts an often elaborate mating ritual and inspecting the quality of the bower. Many females end up selecting the same male, and many under-performing males are left without mates.

In a striking example of what is known as the "transfer effect," bowerbird species that build the most elaborate bowers are dull in color and show little variation between male and female, whereas in bowerbird species with less elaborate bowers the males have bright plumage. Presumably, evolution has "transferred" the reproductive benefits of bright male plumage (common among polygamous birds) to elaborate bowers, allowing males to display their fitness by means other than physical characteristics that would appear to attract predation.

This complex mating behaviour, with highly valued types and colors, and decorations that, in many species, vary in attractiveness from year to year like fashion trends, has led some researcherswho to regard the bowerbirds as the most advanced of any species of bird. It also provides some of the most compelling evidence that the extended phenotype of a species can play a role in sexual selection and indeed act as a powerful mechanism to shape its evolution, as seems to be the case for humans.

In addition, many species of bowerbird are superb vocal mimics. Macgregor's bowerbird, for example, has been observed imitating pigs, waterfalls, and human chatter.


Though bowerbirds have traditionally been regarded as closely related to the birds of paradise, recent DNA-DNA hybridisation studies suggest that while both families are part of the great corvid radiation that took place in or near Australia-New Guinea, the bowerbirds are more distant from the birds of paradise than was once thought. Sibley's DNA-DNA hybridization studies placed them close to the lyrebirdsfact|date=June 2008; however, anatomical evidence appears to contradict this placementFact|date=April 2007 and the true relationship remains unclear.


Genus "Ailuroedus"
* White-eared Catbird, "Ailuroedus buccoides"
* Spotted Catbird, "Ailuroedus melanotis"
* Green Catbird, "Ailuroedus crassirostris"

Genus "Scenopooetes"
* Tooth-billed Catbird, "Scenopooetes dentirostris"

Genus "Archboldia"
* Archbold's Bowerbird, "Archboldia papuensis"
* Sanford's Bowerbird, "Archboldia sanfordi"

Genus "Amblyornis"
* Vogelkop Bowerbird, "Amblyornis inornatus"
* Macgregor's Bowerbird, "Amblyornis macgregoriae"
* Streaked Bowerbird, "Amblyornis subalaris"
* Golden-fronted Bowerbird, "Amblyornis flavifrons"

Genus "Prionodura"
* Golden Bowerbird, "Prionodura newtoniana"

Genus "Sericulus"
* Flame Bowerbird, "Sericulus aureus"
* Fire-maned Bowerbird, "Sericulus bakeri"
* Regent Bowerbird, "Sericulus chrysocephalus"

Genus "Ptilonorhynchus"
* Satin Bowerbird, "Ptilonorhynchus violaceus"

Genus "Chlamydera"
* Western Bowerbird, "Chlamydera guttata"
* Spotted Bowerbird, "Chlamydera maculata"
* Great Bowerbird, "Chlamydera nuchalis"
* Yellow-breasted Bowerbird, "Chlamydera lauterbachi"
* Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, "Chlamydera cerviniventris"


External links

* [ PBS Nature: Bower Bird Blues]
* [ PBS Nova: Flying Casanovas]
* [ Bowerbird videos] on the Internet Bird Collection
* [ The Bowerbird's Dilemma] cartoon-style treatment of bower building.
* [ "B is for Bramble"] - a virtual children's book by S.S. Sebastian about a bowerbird called Bramble that collects items for his bower. This virtual book is held by the State Library of Queensland, Australia.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • bowerbird — ► NOUN ▪ an Australasian bird noted for the male s habit of constructing an elaborate bower adorned with feathers, shells, etc. to attract the female …   English terms dictionary

  • bowerbird — [bou′ərbʉrd΄] n. any of certain passerine birds (family Ptilonorhynchidae) of Australia and New Guinea: the male builds a mating bower, variously decorated, to attract the female …   English World dictionary

  • bowerbird — /bow euhr berrd /, n. any of several oscine birds of the family Ptilonorhynchidae, of Australia, New Guinea, and adjacent islands, the males of which build bowerlike, decorated structures to attract the females. [1840 50; BOWER1 + BIRD] * * * Any …   Universalium

  • bowerbird — noun Date: 1845 any of a family (Ptilonorhynchidae) of passerine birds of Australia and New Guinea in which the male builds a chamber or passage arched over with twigs and grasses, often adorned with bright colored objects, and used especially to …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • bowerbird — n. bird that builds bowerlike elaborate structures and is native to New Guinea and Australia …   English contemporary dictionary

  • bowerbird — noun an Australasian bird noted for the male s habit of constructing an elaborate bower adorned with feathers, shells, etc. to attract the female. [Family Ptilonorhynchidae: several species.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • bowerbird — bow•er•bird [[t]ˈbaʊ ərˌbɜrd[/t]] n. orn any of various songbirds of the Australian and Papuan family Ptilonorhynchidae, the males of which build bowerlike structures decorated to attract the female • Etymology: 1840–1850 …   From formal English to slang

  • bowerbird — /ˈbaʊəbɜd / (say bowuhberd) noun 1. any of various birds of the family Ptilonorhynchidae, of Australia and New Guinea, the males of which build bower like structures and decorate them with bright objects to attract females for mating. 2.… …   Australian English dictionary

  • bowerbird — n. 1 any of various birds of the Ptilonorhyncidae family, native to Australia and New Guinea, the males of which construct elaborate bowers of feathers, grasses, shells, etc. during courtship. 2 a person who collects bric agrave brac …   Useful english dictionary

  • Western Bowerbird — Conservation status …   Wikipedia

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