Photo: C & D Frith
Australian Tropical Birds
ENDEMIC Tropical North QLD
newtoniana 24 cm
The Golden Bowerbird is one of 12 bird species
endemic to the Wet Tropics
It is restricted to upland rainforests, where it is
numerous above 900 metres
Males in adult plumage, attained about 7 years of
age, may occupy a traditional
The average period of ownership in a study of 46
bowers was 7 years. Some
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
· It is the worlds smallest bowerbird, but it is able to build the largest of
south of Cooktown to Paluma, generally at altitudes between 900 and 1500m,
as low as 700m.
The bower represents external symbols of an individual males fitness.
The male Golden Bowerbird builds a maypole type of bower of one or two towers
sticks up to 3m tall with a display perch. Skilfully laid sticks connect the towers
decorations are placed on them. These are often white, off-white and pale
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
they will only select the male who uses ornaments that are the
rarest or hardest to
The average life of a bower structure is 9 ½ 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
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
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
age for their small size. The male birds will not start to gain signs of adult
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
January. This is when males are active building bowers and females are
The Golden Bowerbird eats fruit most of the time, but also beetles and cicadas.
Its voice croaks and mimics.
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