Friday, January 14, 2011

Creature Feature: Bowerbird.

What really separates man from the animals? Some would say an awesome brain-to-body-ratio and very versatile, articulate digits; others would theorize less physical things like love, imagination, and art.

We could debate about love and imagination in the animal kingdom, but birds definitely invented art first. People likely invented music after hearing bird songs (which have cool tweaks of their own, such as dialects). Some birds, like humans, can see in color; this is best shown in the colorful plumage of parrots and the iridescent plumage of some other birds. There is at least one type of bird that uses modern art to win a mate.

(I've seen worse things called "art.")

Bowerbirds are medium-sized perching birds (passerines) in the family Ptilonorhynicidae. They are native to Australia and New Guinea and are thought to be related to either birds-of-paradise or lyrebirds. Bowerbirds cover twenty species in eight genera, but they all have one thing in common: They're into pop art in a big way.

And I shall call it..."CLOTHESPINS IN STICKS!"

When mating season arrives, the male creates a two-walled structure out of twigs called a "bower." This bower starts simple, but quickly becomes more elaborate as items are added to it. Some keep the two-walled structure and add all sorts of junk; others add berries and make what must be a summer beach house to a songbird.

What sorts of items are stolen for this structure depends on the bowerbird; for example, female Satin Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) have evolved to like the color blue. Why? Who knows, but it results in a looot of blue things getting stolen in this video. This guy even opens someone else's car!

The female then chooses the male with the prettiest bower and/or flashiest plumage. Like lyrebirds,  bowerbirds are also excellent mimics, This is like walking into an art gallery, then making out with whomever made the prettiest painting. Naturally, this mating rite attracts more than one female to a single artistic male. Hey, a lot of human women would go with the bird that opened a car.

He also has the most gorgeous eyes I've ever seen on a bird. Look at that PURPLE!

Wouldn't it be great if human artists got that sort of treatment?

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