Family Ptilonorhynchidae

Bowerbirds are unique to Australia and Papua-New Guinea. There are ten species of bowerbird found in Australia, generally in the tropics, but with some species extending into the more central and southern parts of Australia. They are most noted for the construction of bowers, where the males display during the breeding season to attract a mate. There is only one species found in and around Canberra, the Satin Bowerbird, whose bowers are distinguished by the bright blue objects used for decoration. The fully mature male Satin Bowerbird is distinguished by its shiny deep blue plumage and violet eye, while females and less mature males have green and brown plumage.

 Satin Bowerbird

Ptilonorhynchus violaceus

Since the start of the survey in 1981, the Satin Bowerbird has become an increasingly frequent visitor to gardens in the southwest suburbs of Canberra, particularly Weston Creek, Kambah, Yarralumla and Pearce. There were no records in 1981-82, one 1982-83 and a few in the next five years. Numbers increased in 1989-1990 and this continued until 2000, following which the numbers have fallen markedly.

In parts of the southwest suburbs the birds are now quite common, particularly during winter. The reason for this change is likely to relate to winter food resources as birds leave their favoured wet forest habitat west of the Murrumbidgee Corridor for the adjacent suburbs. Birds are known to visit gardens with feeding tables, ornamental trees with ripe fruit, and/or vegetable patches. They prefer the bushier mature gardens with shrubby undercover.

Numbers show a strong seasonal pattern with a June-August peak and a summer minimum of about one-tenth the winter numbers. There are several published articles and many anecdotal reports of the birds building bowers in gardens. The males display at them and rivalry between bowers results in much destruction and rebuilding.

The female is known to be solely responsible for nest building, and raising the young at some distance from the bower. There are few records of this in the ACT. R=67. BR=39.