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GOLDEN BOWERBIRD

Golden Bowerbird.jpg (11955 bytes)
Photo: C & D Frith  
Australian Tropical Birds

ENDEMIC Tropical North QLD

GOLDEN BOWERBIRD 
Prionodura newtoniana 24 cm

          The Golden Bowerbird is one of 12 bird species endemic to the Wet Tropics
        region.

             It is restricted to upland rainforests, where it is numerous above 900 metres
  altitude.

            Males in adult plumage, attained about 7 years of age, may occupy a traditional
  bower site.

            The average period of ownership in a study of 46 bowers was 7 years.  Some
  sites have been occupied by a succession of males for several decades.

      The bower is usually about two metres tall and constructed around two trunks of
  saplings connected loosely by a fallen branch.  The branch and the towers of
  sticks on each side are decorated with lichens and pale flowers or fruits. 

      An endemic to Australia, the Golden Bowerbird can be seen in Queensland from
   just south of Cooktown to Paluma, generally at altitudes between 900 and 1500m,
   but sometimes as low as 700m.

      It is the world’s smallest bowerbird, but it is able to build the largest of all bowers.
         The bower represents external symbols of an individual male’s fitness.

      The male Golden Bowerbird builds a maypole type of bower of one or two towers
        of sticks up to 3m tall with a display perch. Skilfully laid sticks connect the towers
        and decorations are placed on them. These are often white, off-white and pale
        green orchids, jasmine, other flowers, seedpods and lichens. The sticks become
        glued together by the action of fungi after some time. To maximise the time a male
        can spend at a bower, he hides fruits in different places throughout the bower.

      The bower is very important to the bird, and rival males may steal higher valued
        decorations from each others’ bowers. This is because the females are
        discriminative – they will only select the male who uses ornaments that are the
        rarest or hardest to obtain.

      The average life of a bower structure is 9 years, and the same sites are often
        used from generation to generation, perhaps for 60 years.

      The male tries to fertilise as many females as possible during each breeding
        season. The females assess the males’ vocals, plumage, displays and bower
        structure before selecting and mating.

      The mature male is a golden-olive brown colour, with golden yellow underparts,
        crown and nape. He has an unusual feather structure that refracts light to produce
        pure white highlights on the plumage. When younger, the male looks the same as
        the female. Both have a golden iris.

      The female, less conspicuous than the male, is olive-brown with ash-grey below.
        She raises the one or two young in a small cup nest in a tree crevice.

      Some Golden Bowerbirds have lived until they are 25 years old – an impressive
        age for their small size. The male birds will not start to gain signs of adult plumage
        until they are at least 5 years old.

      In the Wet Tropics, it has been discovered that golden bowerbirds inhabiting
        mountain tops just 20km from each other sing quite different songs. In fact, although
        the birds behaved aggressively when played tapes of local golden bowerbirds, they
        did not respond to the songs of birds from other areas. It is thought that different
        populations of these birds, which inhabit cool wet forests above 900m, became
        isolated from each other at the end of the ice age as the climate warmed and their
        type contracted to mountain tops.
(Source: Environmental Protection Agency) 

      The best time to see a Golden Bowerbird is in the wetter months from November
        to January. This is when males are active building bowers and females are
        nesting.

      The Golden Bowerbird eats fruit most of the time, but also beetles and cicadas.

      Its voice croaks and mimics.

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Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Lake Eacham, Atherton Tableland
Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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