Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #81 - Western Bowerbird

Chris Watson

Western Bowerbird Chlamydera guttata

Olive Pink Botanic Gardens are currently hosting the greatest piece of theatre ever to hit The Centre. There is tragedy and comedy, mystery and intrigue. This production has a stunning and talented cast and has been going on in the Alice Springs region for thousands of years, and will continue for the foreseeable future – free of charge!

The show might be named, A Tale of Two Bowers, for the star performers are the Western Bowerbirds that reside in the gardens. Many will be familiar with the bowerbirds’ habit of collecting things, usually of a particular colour, even going as far as pinching clothes pegs, cutlery, or keyrings. The term bowerbird has even passed into common usage to describe anyone with a collecting habit.

Less well-known, is the sophisticated artistic sense possessed by these birds and their complex sex lives and seduction techniques. Most birds perform sexual displays using an evolved feature of their plumage or external body parts; the peacock’s tail is the most obvious example. Bowerbirds are unique however, in employing a display of items separate to their own bodies, to attract a mate. The male bowerbird arranges an art gallery if you like, for the delectation of female visitors; if the arrangement appeals, mating may ensue. But there are always rivals, and if the bower is left unattended the owner may return to find it ransacked, torn apart, and his prized baubles pilfered to adorn the gallery of a jealous neighbour.  If you haven’t been down to OPBG for a look at this extraordinary spectacle, you’re missing out.

More Princess Parrots reported this week, this time out on the Mereenie Loop. Long-awaited reports of Night Parrot have drifted out from QLD and NW Victoria. Black Falcons and Welcome Swallows have both been making daily appearances at the sewage ponds.

Happy birding!