Background on Bowerbirds

Bowerbirds comprise the bird family Ptilonorhynchidae. They occur across the Austro-Papuan region. They are unique among birds because the males build structures on the ground called bowers, which generally serve to attract females for breeding. They are a major component of the bowerbird males’ mating display, with better-constructed bowers often associated with increased reproductive success (Borgia 1996). These bowers are quite variable among species and are often highly decorated, making bowerbirds a fascinating group of birds to study. There are 20 species in total, which can be divided into several different categories.

            Three species are monogamous and do not clear display courts (Borgia 1996).These are the white-eared catbird (Ailuroedus buccoides), spotted catbird (Ailuroedus melanotis), and green catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris).

White-eared catbird                                             Spotted catbird                                            Green catbird

white-eared catbirdspotted catbirdgreen catbird


Three species are polygynous and clear display courts, but do not build bowers (Borgia 1996). These are the tooth-billed catbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris), the Archbold’s bowerbird (Archboldia papuensis), and the Sanford’s bowerbird (Archboldia sanfordi). Note: some consider the Sanford’s bowerbird to be a subspecies of the Archbold’s bowerbird.

 Tooth-billed catbird                                              Archbold’s/Sanford’s bowerbird

tooth-billed catbirdArchbold's bowerbird


Nine species are polygynous, clear display courts, and build a type of bower known as an avenue bower (Borgia 1996). These are the spotted bowerbird (Chlamydera maculata), great bowerbird (Chlamydera nuchalis), satin bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus), regent bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus), flame bowerbird (Sericulus aureus), fire-maned bowerbird (Sericulus bakeri), yellow-breasted bowerbird (Chlamydera lauterbachi), Western bowerbird (Chlamydera guttata), and fawn-breasted bowerbird (Chlamydera cerviniventris).

Spotted bowerbird                                                Great bowerbird                                         Satin bowerbird

spotted bowerbirdgreat bowerbirdsatin bowerbird

   Regent bowerbird                                          Flame bowerbird                                        Fire-maned bowerbird

regent bowerbirdflame bowerbirdfire-maned bowerbird

Yellow-breasted bowerbird                            Western bowerbird                                 Fawn-breasted bowerbird

yellow-breasted bowerbirdwestern bowerbirdfawn-breasted bowerbird


Some species are polygynous, clear display courts, and build a type bower known as a maypole bower (Borgia 1996).These are the golden bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana), the MacGregor’s bowerbird (Amblyornis macgregoriae), Vogelkop bowerbird (Amblyornis inornata), streaked bowerbird (Amblyornis subalaris), and the golden-fronted bowerbird (Amblyornis flavifrons).

Golden bowerbird                                    Macgregor’s bowerbird                                  Vogelkop bowerbird

golden bowerbirdMacgregor's bowerbirdVogelkop bowerbird

                                      Streaked bowerbird                                                       Golden-fronted bowerbird

Streaked bowerbirdGolden-fronted bowerbird