Bowerbirds: Nature's Interior Designers
Biology 342 Fall 07
Valerie Conrad and Hannah Smith
Bowerbirds are members of the family Ptilonorhynchidae, belonging to the order of passerines, or perching birds. Endemic to Australia and New Guinea, bowerbirds are found mainly in tropical regions and eat mainly fruit. As their name implies, bowerbirds are famed for the elaborate bowers built by the males as part of a courtship display. Until reaching maturity at seven years of age, juvenile males spend countless hours practicing the art of bower building. Once adult, male birds devote their days to constructing and maintaining the bowers, as well as performing intricate courtship dances and calls in order to entice females. Birds with an especially attractive bower can potentially mate with many females, while the majority of males often fail to mate at all. After copulation, females raise the young independently, while the males continue to devote their time to bower building.
Bower building is a remarkable example of artistry in the animal world, unparalleled by any other non-human species. The purpose of this website is to illuminate this unique behavior through the discussion of Tinbergen's four areas of investigation: phylogeny, ontogeny, mechanism, and adaptive value.
To see for yourself: David Attenborough does bowerbirds.