bowerbird, common name for any of several species of birds of the family Ptilonorhynchidae, native to Australia and New Guinea, which build, for courtship display, a bower of sticks or grasses. Usually the males construct the bowers, some of which are large (up to 9 ft/275 cm high), while others are like small cabins or runways. The crestless gardener bowerbird, Amblyornis inornatus, makes a lawn around its bower. Colored stones, shells, feathers, flowers, and other bright objects, which are replaced when they become withered or worn, are used to decorate the lawns and the bowers. The satin bowerbird, Ptilonorhyncus violaceus, prefers blue decorative articles. The bower is constructed by the male in his effort to attract a female and probably has no other function than for the courtship performance. After mating has taken place in the bower, a nest is built by the female away from the bower, and there the clutch of two eggs is laid. The birds are crowlike and lack the showy plumage of the related bird of paradise. The bowers may be high pyramids, such as those built by the five species of maypole builder bowerbirds, or lower, more intricate, and painted with blue and green paints made of saliva and pigments, such as those built by the satin bowerbird and regent bowerbird ( Sericulus chrysocephalus ). The great gray bowerbird (genus Chlamydera ) of Australia is the largest member of the family, being 15 in. (37.5 cm) long. Bowerbirds do not have very pleasant calls, but they are good mimics; sometimes other species' songs are included in their repertoires. Bowerbirds are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Ptilonorhynchidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.