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Bowerbirds are so named because the male bird builds a “bower” – an avenue lined with carefully woven sticks and twigs, during the breeding season. Bowerbirds are in the family Ptilonorhynchidae, which includes catbirds. It comprises species worldwide and 9 in Australia. These range in size from approximately 23 to 38 cm. [1]

Satin Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus), an Australian woodland species, are up to about 33 cm long and have green and brown plumage that blends well with their habitat. They are dimorphic: the mature male has glossy, satiny blue-black plumage. He instinctively decorates his bower with blue objects which complement his colouring, and paints the walls with charcoal (carried back from burned out areas in his beak, where his saliva turns it into a stain) or the juice of crushed dark berries if he cannot find charcoal. [2].

The male courts the female with an elaborate dance that includes much posturing and the tossing of his treasures up into the air. They mate in the bower, but the female nests, incubates the eggs and cares for the fledglings alone.


  1. Simpson, Ken and Day, Nicolas, with Trusler, Peter. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. 7th Edition. Camberwell (Victoria): Viking Press (Penguin Books) 2004.
  2. The bowerbird is “compelled” to collect treasures for his bower and to paint it. Cronin, Leonard: Satin Bowerbird. Gardening Australia Magazine, September 2007, p. 71.