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Satin Bowerbird

A Satin Bowerbird in it's Bower with assorted blue decorations

Male – displaying at bower

A female or imamature male Satin Bowerbird perched in a tree

‘Green Bird’ – female or immature male (<6yrs)

A Satin Bowerbird Bower with assorted blue decorations

Bower with blue decorations

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Scientific Name: Ptilonorhynchus violaceus

Size: 27 to 33 cm

What does it look and sound like?

Satin Bowerbirds are medium-sized, largely ground-dwelling birds. The adult male Satin Bowerbird has striking glossy blue-black plumage, a pale buff-white bill and a violet-blue iris. Younger males and females are similar in colour, 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 begin to acquire their adult plumage only in their fifth year and are not fully ‘attired’ until they are seven.

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

Where is it found?

The Satin Bowerbird is found along the majority of the eastern and south-eastern coast of Australia.

What are its habitats & habits?

Satin Bowerbirds prefer the wetter forests and woodlands, and nearby open areas. The mature males 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.

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

The male Satin Bowerbird is perhaps the most documented and most well known of all the bowerbirds in Australia. This fame is, at least part, due to its passion for collecting bright blue and violet coloured objects to decorate its avenue-type bower. The bower, consisting of two parallel walls of sticks, is built on the ground, and is used as a courtship arena during the breeding season. The breeding season runs from September through to about February, and both mature and immature males build bowers and display to prospective females. Bowers are meticulously maintained and the bright coloured objects are collected from both the forest and nearby households. Blue pegs, 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. 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 the loose nest of sticks in a tree or bush, up to 30 to 35 m above the ground. She will incubate her 2 to 3 eggs for about 3 weeks. After a further 3 weeks of her feeding the young birds, they leave the nest.

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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