Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus): The Bowerbirds are a remarkable family found only in Australia and New Guinea. They build bowers where displays and mating occur. The bowers are not nests. They are usually shallow and saucer-like, constructed of twigs.
There are two types of bower. Avenue-bowers are a double row of twigs and grass constructed, at ground level, on a platform of sticks (see left hand image). Maypole-bowers are single or double columns of sticks constructed around saplings. Males build the bowers.
Of the seven Australian Bowerbirds only the Golden Bowerbird builds a maypole-bower.
Male Bowerbirds collect natural or artificial objects and arrange them around the bower. There appears to be a correlation between the colours of the collected objects and the plumage of the bower-builder.
Satin Bowerbirds are between 280-320 millimetres in length. Males are a striking glossy blue-black with a bluish-white bill, blue eyes and greenish-yellow legs. Females are olive-green to blue-grey above and the wings and tail tawny brown. The female bill is dark brown, eyes purplish blue and legs dull greenish yellow.
Immature males, from the first to third years, resemble females. Four year old males have a paler bill and blue feathers appear in the plumage. Males gain full plumage when they are about seven years old.
In autumn and winter Satin Bowerbirds are often observed in large flocks composed of females, immature males and a few blue males. They often raid fruit trees and will pull seedlings out of the ground. This is an activity that does not endear Satin Bowerbirds to gardeners.
Breeding season is usually between July and February. At this time immature birds assist in the construction of “training” bowers. Adults are more solitary and males build and maintain bowers and also displaying. They spend a great deal of time collecting objects for display around the bower. Females are left with the tasks of building nests and feeding young.
Satin Bowerbirds collect blue, greenish-blue or yellow objects. This ties in with the colour of their plumage as mentioned above. Close to habitation most collected objects are artificial. Blue clothes pegs and biro tops figure prominently in Satin Bowerbird collections.
We have also observed bluish-green, exotic Cypress foliage displayed near a bower in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.
The bower illustrated was discovered in a rhododendron garden in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. All the objects collected were man-made.
Satin Bowerbirds occur along the coast and nearby ranges in southern Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. There is also an isolated occurrence in northern Queensland.