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bowerbird

bowerbird, common name for any of several species of birds of the family Ptilonorhynchidae, native to Australia and New Guinea, which build, for courtship display, a bower of sticks or grasses. Usually the males construct the bowers, some of which are large (up to 9 ft/275 cm high), while others are like small cabins or runways. The crestless gardener bowerbird, Amblyornis inornatus, makes a lawn around its bower. Colored stones, shells, feathers, flowers, and other bright objects, which are replaced when they become withered or worn, are used to decorate the lawns and the bowers. The satin bowerbird, Ptilonorhyncus violaceus, prefers blue decorative articles. The bower is constructed by the male in his effort to attract a female and probably has no other function than for the courtship performance. After mating has taken place in the bower, a nest is built by the female away from the bower, and there the clutch of two eggs is laid. The birds are crowlike and lack the showy plumage of the related bird of paradise. The bowers may be high pyramids, such as those built by the five species of maypole builder bowerbirds, or lower, more intricate, and painted with blue and green paints made of saliva and pigments, such as those built by the satin bowerbird and regent bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus). The great gray bowerbird (genus Chlamydera) of Australia is the largest member of the family, being 15 in. (37.5 cm) long. Bowerbirds do not have very pleasant calls, but they are good mimics; sometimes other species' songs are included in their repertoires. Bowerbirds are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Ptilonorhynchidae.

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Ptilonorhynchidae

Ptilonorhynchidae (bowerbirds, catbirds; class Aves, order Passeriformes) A family of medium-sized to large birds, which are mainly black, grey, or blue, marked with other brilliant colours. They have stout bills, short to medium, rounded wings, and short to long tails. Some species have a crest or coloured ruff of feathers. They inhabit forests, feed on insects, fruit, and seeds, and nest in trees. The males build an elaborate bower or display ground which is decorated with coloured flowers, berries, and other objects. There are eight genera, with 18 species, found in New Guinea and Australia.

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bowerbird

bowerbird Forest bird of New Guinea and Australia. The male builds a simple but brightly ornamented bower to attract the female. After mating, the female lays one to three eggs in a cup-shaped nest. Adults, mainly terrestrial, have short wings and legs, and variously coloured plumage. Length: 25–38cm (10–15in). Family Ptilonorhynchidae.

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bowerbird

bow·er·bird / ˈbou(-ə)rˌbərd/ • n. a strong-billed Australasian bird (family Ptilonorhynchidae), noted for the male's habit of constructing an elaborate bower adorned with feathers, shells, and other objects to attract the female for courtship.

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bowerbirds

bowerbirds See PTILONORHYNCHIDAE.

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bowerbird

bowerbirdabsurd, bird, Byrd, curd, engird, gird, Heard, herd, Kurd, misheard, nerd, overheard, reheard, third, turd, undergird, undeterred, unheard, unstirred, word •blackbird • yardbird • cage bird •jailbird • seabird • ladybird •dickybird • mockingbird • whirlybird •hummingbird • nightbird • songbird •shorebird • bluebird • lovebird •lyrebird • bowerbird • thunderbird •waterbird • weaverbird • Sigurd •swineherd • cowherd • goatherd •potsherd • catchword • password •headword • swear word • keyword •byword • watchword • crossword •foreword • loanword • buzzword •afterword

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Bowerbirds

Bowerbirds

Resources

The 20 species of bowerbirds are unique in that the males build and decorate a bowera structure of sticks or grass on the groundfor the purpose of attracting and courting females. Members of the bowerbird family (Ptilonorhynchidae) are found in Australia and New Guinea, and are related to lyrebirds and birds of paradise. Most bowerbirds are about the size of a blue jay or grackle, and as a group they show a wide variety of plumage characteristics, vocal behavior, and bower-building styles. The bowers of some species are quite large (3.36.6 ft/12 m in length), and are decorated with a variety of objects, making them some of the most remarkable examples of animal architecture.

Naturalists have been fascinated by bowerbirds for decades. Early observers believed that the bower was a nest; however, in 1865, the ornithologist John Gould suggested that the bower was used for sexual display and mating. Not all bowerbirds build a bower; some, such as the tooth-billed bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris ) of eastern Australia, simply clear a display court on the ground, and decorate it with leaves.

Bowers occur in several forms, each built by species that appear to share closer genealogical relationships with each other than with those species that build a different type of bower. Avenue bowers (constructed by the satin bowerbird, Ptilonorhynchus violaceus ) have two vertical walls running parallel to each other, with one end opening onto a display area where most of the

decorations are arranged. Maypole bowers consist of sticks woven around a central pole, formed by a sapling or fern, surrounded by a circular, raised court. Two species, the striped gardener bowerbird (Amblyornis subalaris ) and Vogelkops bowerbird (A. inornatus ), build massive hutlike structures (up to 6.6 ft/2 m across) around the central maypole, opening onto a cleared exhibition area. The golden bowerbird places sticks against adjacent saplings which are joined by a cross-branch; this he uses as a display perch. A variety of objects are used to decorate the bowers of different species of bowerbird, including fruits, flowers, feathers, moss, snail shells, colored stones and bark; the recent presence of humans has added coins, bottle tops, pieces of glass, teaspoons, nails, and screws to the bowers.

Female bowerbirds visit the bowers of numerous males in the process of selecting a mate. When a female arrives, she will take up a position within the bower, while the owner launches into a stereotyped display that is unique for each species. The male emits varied chirps, whistles, buzzes, and mechanical sounds, while performing a series of dancelike movements that have been described as rooster walks and penguin walks. Males of some species pick up and hold decorations in their beak during their display, bobbing their heads or tossing the items with considerable vigor. One especially vigorous species, the spotted bowerbird (Chlamydera maculate ), actually rushes at the visitor watching from within the bower, crashing bodily into the wall that separates the two birds. When the visiting female is ready to mate, she crouches low in the bower, lifting her tail, and the male approaches from the rear of the bower to mount her and copulate for just one or two seconds.

It is clear that a bower can be extremely valuable to its owner, for bowerbirds spend hours constructing, decorating, and maintaining their bowers, and no male has ever been reported to successfully court a female without one. However, success is not guaranteed. Males in some species are highly competitive, and are observed to steal decorations from the bowers of other males, and to destroy rival bowers. Many bowerbird males simply fail to mate with even one visiting female during a breeding season, even though the males have been tending bowers.

Researchers have sought to understand why some individuals enjoy high mating success, while most others do not, and the functional role of the bower in female mate choice. Elaborate display traits, such as bowers, suggest the influence of sexual selectionthe process of evolutionary change due to competition between members of one sex (usually males), and selective mate choice by the other sex (usually females). In species where males give little or no parental care to their offspring (as is the case for most bowerbirds), researchers have attempted to address the question: What is the female choosing when she selects a mate? Bowerbird observers have attempted to ascertain whether certain features of bowers or of male display are reliable predictors of a males success in obtaining mates.

Gerald Borgia and his collaborators have used an ingenious method to investigate this question in the field. A video camera, positioned a short distance in front of the bower, was outfitted with a motion-sensitive infrared detector, which turned on the camera whenever there was movement at the bower. Such continuous monitoring compiled a comprehensive record of activity at the bower, and allowed Borgia to measure and compare the courtship of many individuals. The results showed that female bowerbirds differentiated among males, at least in part on the basis of the quality of the bowers and the display. In satin bowerbirds, for instance, the number of decorations, especially snail shells and blue feathers, as well as the degree of bower symmetry and the density of the sticks used to construct it, were excellent predictors of male mating success. The more decorations, and the more symmetrical and densely constructed the bower, the more matings were achieved by the bower owner. The importance of decorations was underscored when the researchers experimentally removed decorations from some bowers. The owners of the manipulated bowers had far less success in attracting females. Clearly, female choice could exert a potent effect on the evolution of male display in bowerbirds, helping shape the elaborate courtship structures and behaviors observed in these animals.

Resources

BOOKS

Frith, C.B, and D.W. Frith. The Bowerbirds: Ptilonorhynchidae. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

PERIODICALS

Borgia, Gerald. Sexual Selection in Bowerbirds. Scientific American 254 (1986): 92101.

Uy, J.A.C. Say It with Bowers: If Male Bowerbirds Build It Females Will Come. But in the Mountains of New Guinea, One Species Is Sending Mixed Messages. Natural History 111 (March 2002): 7684.

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Bowerbirds

Bowerbirds

The 18 species of bowerbirds are unique in that the males build and decorate a bower, a structure of sticks or grass on the ground, for the purpose of attracting and courting females. Members of the bowerbird family (Ptilonorhynchidae) are found in Australia and New Guinea, and are related to lyrebirds and birds of paradise . Most bowerbirds are about the size of a blue jay or grackle, and as a group they show a wide variety of plumage characteristics, vocal behavior , and bowerbuilding styles. The bowers of some species are quite large (3.3-6.6 ft/1-2 m) in length, and are decorated with a variety of objects, making them some of the most remarkable examples of animal architecture.

Naturalists have been fascinated by bowerbirds for decades. Early observers believed that the bower was a nest; however, in 1865, the ornithologist John Gould suggested that the bower was used for sexual display and mating. Not all bowerbirds build a bower; some, such as the toothbilled bowerbird of eastern Australia, simply clear a display court on the ground, and decorate it with leaves.

Bowers occur in several forms, each built by species that appear to share closer genealogical relationships with each other than with those species that build a different type of bower. Avenue bowers (constructed by the satin bowerbird) have two vertical walls running parallel to each other, with one end opening onto a display area where most of the decorations are arranged. Maypole bowers consist of sticks woven around a central pole, formed by a sapling or fern, surrounded by a circular, raised court. Two species, the striped gardener bowerbird and Vogelkop's bowerbird, build massive hutlike structures (up to 6.6 ft/2 m across) around the central maypole, opening onto a cleared exhibition area. The golden bowerbird places sticks against adjacent saplings which are joined by a crossbranch; this he uses as a display perch. A variety of objects are used to decorate the bowers of different species of bowerbird, including fruits , flowers, feathers, moss , snail shells, colored stones and bark ; the recent presence of humans has added coins, bottle tops, pieces of glass , teaspoons, nails, and screws to the bowers.

Female bowerbirds visit the bowers of numerous males in the process of selecting a mate. When a female arrives, she will take up a position within the bower, while the owner launches into a stereotyped display that is unique for each species. The male emits varied chirps, whistles, buzzes, and mechanical sounds, while performing a series of dance-like movements that have been described as "rooster walks" and "penguin walks." Males of some species pick up and hold decorations in their beak during their display, bobbing their heads or tossing the items with considerable vigor. One especially vigorous species, the spotted bowerbird, actually rushes at the visitor watching from within the bower, crashing bodily into the wall that separates the two birds . When the visiting female is ready to mate, she crouches low in the bower, lifting her tail, and the male approaches from the rear of the bower to mount her and copulate for just one or two seconds.

It is clear that a bower can be extremely valuable to its owner, for bowerbirds spend hours constructing, decorating, and maintaining their bowers, and no male has ever been reported to successfully court a female without one. However, success is not guaranteed. Males in some species are highly competitive, and are observed to steal decorations from the bowers of other males, and to destroy rival bowers. Many bowerbird males simply fail to mate with even one visiting female during a breeding season, even though the males have been tending bowers.

Researchers have sought to understand why some individuals enjoy high mating success, while most others do not, and the functional role of the bower in female mate choice. Elaborate display traits, such as bowers, suggest the influence of sexual selection—the process of evolutionary change due to competition between members of one sex (usually males), and selective mate choice by the other sex (usually females). In species where males give little or no parental care to their offspring (as is the case for most bowerbirds), researchers have attempted to address the question: What is the female choosing when she selects a mate? Bowerbird observers have attempted to ascertain whether certain features of bowers or of male display are reliable predictors of a male's success in obtaining mates.

Gerald Borgia and his collaborators have used an ingenious method to investigate this question in the field. A video camera, positioned a short distance in front of the bower, was outfitted with a motion-sensitive infrared detector, which turned on the camera whenever there was movement at the bower. Such continuous monitoring compiled a comprehensive record of activity at the bower, and allowed Borgia to measure and compare the courtship of many individuals. The results showed that female bowerbirds differentiated among males, at least in part on the basis of the quality of the bowers and the display. In satin bowerbirds, for instance, the number of decorations, especially snail shells and blue feathers, as well as the degree of bower symmetry and the density of the sticks used to construct it, were excellent predictors of male mating success. The more decorations, and the more symmetrical and densely constructed the bower, the more matings were achieved by the bower owner. The importance of decorations was underscored when the researchers experimentally removed decorations from some bowers. The owners of the manipulated bowers had far less success in attracting females. Clearly, female choice could exert a potent effect on the evolution of male display in bowerbirds, helping shape the elaborate courtship structures and behaviors observed in these animals.


Resources

periodicals

Borgia, Gerald. "Sexual Selection in Bowerbirds." ScientificAmerican 254 (1986): 92-101.

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