Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bowerbirds are crazy

So, one of the papers I need to write this semester is for my ornithology class. They gave us a bunch of topics, and we got to choose which one to write about and which bird species to focus on.

I chose the satin bowerbird, Ptilonorhynchus violaceus. They live in Australia and make these crazy bowers that they decorate with blue objects to impress the ladies:Now, I'm not going to go over my entire paper about the origins, evolution and strategies involved in the construction of bower nests and object collection, as well as the power of female choice in driving male decision making... but I found this tidbit fascinating:

When the males are courting females, the females sit inside his bower to observe his collection of blue objects and watch his display. The males have particularly aggressive displays involving feather fluffing, running around, buzzing sounds and sudden movements. This is very similar to male-male aggressive displays, and so might frighten an inexperienced female.

To solve this problem, males and females communicate. A study was done using robotic females to test this communication - when females crouch down (the mating position) it shows she's interested in the male's display. When she stays upright, that means she's less interested. Robots were used to see if males would change the intensity of their display depending on how the female was acting. It turns out - the males DO take into account female cues. If she's crouching, he takes it up a notch, but if she shows disinterest, he calms it down. This has also been shown to hold true in the wild, but the robotic female was needed to show a controlled situation.

I found a youtube video of the robot and male in action (you HAVE to see the ending)

11 comments:

everything ok! said...

ok, those are officially the COOLEST BIRDS EVER.

LoveMeKnot Creations said...

haha like the ending lol.

the birds remind me of the birds of paradise, the ones off Planet Earth doc... pretty neat what the males do to attract the ladies :)

UniqueNurseGranny said...

Rascinating...so much blue..funny

Rick said...

... Love the ending! :)

Field Notes said...

I've always loved those bowerbirds! The ladies seem to be getting th equivalent of a peep show except they don't have to pay to watch the guys dance around and the guys keep it all fairly innocent.

Weirdbuglady said...

Field - did you know the reason why bower construction evolved in the first place was to protect females from forced copulations? Those males aren't innocent ;)

LauraJ said...

And it was the _female_ in that video who was the robot? The male makes really fine whirring noises, I'd've bet he was the mechanical device.

Thanks!

deelind studio said...

I'm researching Bowerbirds for a mural and whallah! My forst page is from one the my coolest etsy mates. Nice work here,thx!

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