Male satin bowerbird. They face big changes regarding their treasure collecting.

I have a great fascination for  social history, and for our native, satin bowerbirds.  Yes, there is a strong link between the two.  When the adult blue/black  male bowerbirds  or the green juvenile ‘apprentices’ build their bowers they decorate them with anything blue they can find. For this reason the collections of treasures provide a pretty accurate  reflection of our society.  It’s sobering to realize that ever since plastic became such a presence in our lives the birds have collected it too…. non-biodegradable, domestic  rubbish. They gather broken clothes pegs, lids, plastic straws, ballpoint pens and caps etc etc.

These bottles represent the big changes in bowerbird ttreasures.

Right now the birds in the  Blue Mountains  concentrate on milk bottle caps. I can’t resist  teasing them sometimes. It takes a lot of work for them to remove the ones I occasionally attach outside my kitchen window.  It’s very important to remove the rings from the caps first.  Probably best not to put them out at all really.

Satin bowerbird
Oh yes, plastic bottle tops
Satin Bowerbird
I’m determined to get these.

Our village of Blackheath  is a tourist destination and as such we have more than our share of cafés. Plastic straws were  once the favourite adornment of bowers here.

Satin bowerbird bower
Oh dear me! That’s not good.


In November 2016   Blackheath became what is believed to have been the first town in the world to ban plastic straws.

Displaying the new paper straws.  Photo from The Blue Mountains Gazette, November 2016

I’m sure it’s possible to use only cardboard cartons instead of plastic milk bottles. Yes, I should be doing it already myself.   If we did this the  birds may revert to gathering  more natural materials; the blue tail feathers of crimson rosellas and blue wrens….. flowers and berries in all hues of blue.

Crimson rosella in morning light.
Blue wren

I recently found the feathers of a Sulphur crested cockatoo in our nearest bower. I couldn’t help hoping they were trophies after a David and Goliath aerial battle.

Sulphur crested cockatoo squawking.
The indignity!
Cockatoo feathers in satin bowerbird's bower.
New treasures.

Among the many suitable native plants  in the Blue Mountains there is Dianella for those gorgeous berries, and Patersonia.

Dianella berries
Berries to match the bowerbird’s eye.

Of course there are many exotic blue flowers. The birds here are a bit picky though. Their favourite is definitely the tiny blue Lithodora blooms. There is  dark blue variety and a paler, white striped one. They are welcome to all they can stuff in their beaks as far as I’m concerned.

Adult male bowerbird with a great alternative to plastics.
I’ll take these thanks, Pauline.
Lithodora is adored by bowerbirds.
Bowerbird and Lithodora flowers

The only problem the bowerbirds might face is that  berries and flowers have a very short ‘shelf life’. Hmm, courtship rituals  might have to be a bit quicker!

Apart from blue they do find pale yellow acceptable. Note the shells in the old print below. In my garden they use dry banksia serrata leaves.  By the way, if you really want to upset a bowerbird, sneak something red into their bower. They can’t stand it and will hurl it out immediately.

19thC satin bowerbird bower. There have been big changes since then. So much plastic.
No plastic here. 19thC bower.

I’ll be watching this  year’s breeding season with great interest. Watch out for your tails  while you are nibbling my spring bulbs dear rosellas!

Crimson Rosellas once provided blue feathers for satin bowerbirds. And times are changing again.


  1. Pauline, loved the bower bird story. We have a flock who visit us regularly. Ours prefer the dark blue milk bottle tops to the lighter blue water bottle tops. Amazing!! I love watching them. Robyne

    • Pauline

      Thanks Robyne. Yes, the bluer the better! Apparently the colour they dislike most is red. They are so entertaining.

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