Hissing and burbling – that’s the only way I can describe the idiosyncratic noises of the satin bower bird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus). A female came to the bird bath on the back deck this morning – a privilege, as they are very shy and skittish. I froze at the kitchen window, as I know from previous experience that the slightest movement frightens them off. We’ve also had the black male, a glossy black bird with spectacular violet eyes come for drinks and baths.
The female stood on the edge of the bird bath facing outwards, and hissed, then turned and plunged in for a bath. She hopped to the edge, shook herself, turned out and hissed, then jumped back in again. She did this about six times, then flew off. I didn’t get the chance for photos, but fortunately other people have. (Update: Finally! A female bowerbrd and the camera and me all in the same place and time!)
There’s a bower in the gully near the house, and that’s where I hear the noises – also in the weedy lantana at the front of the house. I’m loathe to clear the weeds there for this reason. Last time I looked, it had the standard blue pegs, blue plastic straws and blue native ginger berries.
The male carefully builds and decorates his bower to interest the female. If he’s successful they mate, and the female leaves to make a nest, care for the eggs and tend the youngsters. The male stays around to attract and mate with more females.
In the non-breeding season (March to August) they form winter flocks – I’ve certainly seen up groups of up to 15 females and juveniles (who look the same as the females) in the paddock, looking for fruits to eat.