Bowerbirds book front cover showing a Regent Bowerbird
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In 2007, I wrote a book on the Bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea for CSIRO Publishing. The book formed part of CSIROs Australian Natural History Series, and was published in 2008. Unfortunately, the series was not a great success and my book did not return me any profit on investment, although it is still available as an ebook, so there is still a chance that I might break even if everyone who reads this post buys one (tell your friends). They say that you never stop learning, and this is so true in my natural history book writing journey. This book was one of my MANY lessons.

This was the second book about bowerbirds that I have been involved with. The first was way back in 1996 when I was working at the Australian Museum. This first bowerbird book was part of a ten volume series, which covered all of Australia’s bird species, and was entitled Finches, Bowerbirds & Other Passerines of Australia and was the final book in the series.

Front cover of Finches, Bowerbirds & Other Passerines Book with contributions by Peter Rowland
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While my 2008 Bowerbird book is not the best book I have ever written, it still has a wealth of great information about this most wonderful family of birds. I designed a key (below) for the Bowerbird family to assist the casual observer in identifying what species they have seen. I hope it helps you in some way.

Key to the Bowerbirds

Australian species

1 Plumage predominantly green (2)
Plumage without green (4)
2 Black patch below eye Spotted Catbird
No black patch (3)
3 Eye red Green Catbird
Eye lilac-blue Satin Bowerbird (F)
4 Entire plumage dark violet-blue Satin Bowerbird (M)
Plumage without blue (5)
5 Plumage with prominent yellow areas (6)
Plumage without prominent yellow areas (7)
6 Plumage velvety-black and rich golden-yellow Regent Bowerbird (M)
Plumage glossy golden yellow-brown Golden Bowerbird (M)
7 Uniform brownish upperparts (8)
Mottled brownish or grey upperparts (9)
8 Underparts heavily streaked; notched bill Tooth-billed Bowerbird
Upperparts washed with yellow; iris yellowish Golden Bowerbird (F)
9 Underparts reddish-buff, brighter on belly Fawn-breasted Bowerbird
No reddish-buff on belly (10)
10 Underparts spotted or streaked (11)
Underparts uniform greyish (15)
11 Iris yellow; black patch on crown Regent Bowerbird (F)
Iris brown (12)
12 Head & throat moderately streaked; belly pale (13)
Head & throat heavily streaked; belly brownish (14)
13 Bright lilac-pink crest (during display) Spotted Bowerbird (M)
Lilac-pink crest absent or greatly reduced Spotted Bowerbird (F)
14 Bright lilac-pink crest (during display) Western Bowerbird (M)
Lilac-pink crest absent or greatly reduced Western Bowerbird (F)
15 Bright lilac-pink crest (during display) Great Bowerbird (M)
Lilac-pink crest absent or greatly reduced Great Bowerbird (F)


New Guinea species

1 Plumage predominantly green (2)
Plumage without green (4)
2 Black patch below eye Spotted Catbird
Crown brownish; white below the eye White-eared Catbird
3 Plumage predominantly blackish (4)
Plumage not blackish (6)
4 No crest; yellow wing patch Archbold’s Bowerbird (F)
Crested (5)
5 Small tufted yellow crest Archbold’s Bowerbird (M)
Large glossy orange crest Adelbert Bowerbird (M)
6 Plumage orange-yellow (7)
Plumage brownish (8)
7 Face black Masked Bowerbird (M)
Face orange; throat yellow Flame Bowerbird (M)
8 Upperparts mottled brownish (9)
Upperparts uniform brownish (10)
9 Belly reddish-buff (richer on belly) Fawn-breasted Bowerbird
Belly yellow Lauterbach’s Bowerbird
10 Underparts brownish or yellow (11)
Underparts heavily streaked on throat & breast (12)
11 Underparts yellow (14)
Underparts brownish (15)
12 Underparts pale buff, barred darker Adelbert Bowerbird (F)
Underparts similarly coloured to upperparts (13)
13 Bright orange-yellow crest Streaked Bowerbird (M)
No crest Streaked Bowerbird (F)
14 Face black Masked Bowerbird (M)
Face mottled brown Flame Bowerbird (F)
15 Underparts paler than upperparts (16)
Underparts similarly coloured to upperparts (18)
16 Underparts uniformly pale from chin to undertail Vogelkop Bowerbird
Underparts paler on belly and flanks (17)
17 Large glossy yellow crest; Foya Mountains Golden-fronted Bowerbird (M)
No crest; Foya Mountains Golden-fronted Bowerbird (F)
18 Large orange-yellow & brown crest Macgregor’s Bowerbird (M)
No crest Macgregor’s Bowerbird (F)

N.B. In most species, immature males are similar in plumage to adult females.

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