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Bowerbirds
Satinbowerbirdmale
Male Satin Bowerbird
Ptilonorhynchus violaceus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Family: Ptilonorhynchidae
GR Gray, 1841
Genera

Ailuroedus
Amblyornis
Chlamydera
Prionodura
Ptilonorhynchus
Scenopooetes
Sericulus

Bowerbirds ( /ˈbaʊərbɜrd/) make up the bird family Ptilonorhynchidae. The family has 20 species in eight genera. These are medium-sized passerines, ranging from the Golden Bowerbird (22 cm and 70 grams) to the Great Bowerbird (40 cm and 230 grams). Their diet consists mainly of fruit but may also include insects (fed to young),[clarification needed] flowers, nectar and leaves in some species.[1]

The bowerbirds have an Austro-Papuan distribution, with ten species endemic to New Guinea, eight endemic to Australia and two found in both.[2] Although their distribution is centered around the tropical regions of New Guinea and northern Australia, some species extend into central, western and southeastern Australia. They occupy a range of different habitats, including rainforest, eucalyptus and acacia forest, and shrublands.

Bowerbirds are most known for their unique courtship behaviour, where males build a structure and decorate it with sticks and brightly coloured objects in an attempt to attract a mate.

Mating behavior

The catbirds are monogamous and raise chicks with their mate, but all other bowerbirds are polygamous, with the female building the nest and raising the young alone. These latter species are commonly sexually dimorphic, with the female being more drab in color. Female bowerbirds build a nest by laying soft materials, such as leaves, ferns, and vine tendrils, on top of a loose foundation of sticks. They lay one or two eggs, which hatch after 19 to 24 days, depending on the species.[1]

The most notable characteristic of bowerbirds is their extraordinarily complex courtship and mating behaviour, where males build a bower to attract mates. There are two main types of bowers. One clade of bowerbirds build so-called maypole bowers, which are constructed by placing sticks around a sapling; in some species, these bowers have a hut-like roof. The other major bowerbuilding clade builds an avenue type-bower made of two walls of vertically placed sticks. In and around the bower, the male places a variety of brightly colored objects he has collected. These objects — usually different among each species — may include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even discarded plastic items, coins, nails, rifle shells, or pieces of glass. The males spend hours arranging this collection. Bowers within a species share a general form but do show significant variation, and the collection of objects reflects the biases of males of each species and its ability to procure items from the habitat, often stealing them from neighboring bowers. Several studies of different species have shown that colors of decorations males use on their bowers match the preferences of females.

Uy and collaboratorsTemplate:Who have shown that mate-searching females commonly visit multiple bowers, often returning to the male several times, watching the his elaborate courtship displays and inspecting the quality of the bower and tasting the paint the male has placed on the bower walls. Many females end up selecting the same male, and many under-performing males are left without copulations. Females mated with top-mating males tend to return to the male the next year and search less.

File:20110707221304!Chlamydera nuchalis bower - Mount Carbine.jpg

This complex mating behaviour, with its highly valued types and colors of decorations, has led some researchersTemplate:Who to regard the bowerbirds as among the most behaviorally complex species of bird. It also provides some of the most compelling evidence that the extended phenotype of a species can play a role in sexual selection and indeed act as a powerful mechanism to shape its evolution, as seems to be the case for humans.

In addition, many species of bowerbird are superb vocal mimics. Macgregor's Bowerbird, for example, has been observed imitating pigs, waterfalls, and human chatter. Satin Bowerbirds commonly mimic other local species as part of their courtship display.

Relationships

Though bowerbirds have traditionally been regarded as closely related to the birds of paradise, recent molecular studies suggest that while both families are part of the great corvid radiation that took place in or near Australia-New Guinea, the bowerbirds are more distant from the birds of paradise than was once thought. Note that the Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) and Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) from the Americas and the Abyssinian Catbird (Parophasma galinieri) from Africa are unrelated birds that belong to different families.

Systematics

File:Satin bowerbird.jpg

Genus Ailuroedus

Genus Scenopooetes

Genus Archboldia

Genus Amblyornis

Prionodura newtoniana by Bowdler Sharpe

Golden Bowerbird male (top) and female

Genus Prionodura

Genus Sericulus

Genus Ptilonorhynchus

Genus Chlamydera

Note that the Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) and Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) from the Americas and the Abyssinian Catbird (Parophasma galinieri) from Africa are unrelated birds that belong to different families.

References

  1. ^ a b Frith, Clifford B. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 228–331. ISBN 1-85391-186-0. 
  2. ^ Rowland, Peter (2008). Bowerbirds. Australian Natural History Series. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing. pp. 1–26. ISBN 978-0-643094-20-8. 

External links

Template:Bowerbird


Sterna diversity This article is part of Project Bird Families, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each bird family, including made-up families.
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