It has been a long courting season for the bowerbird in Blackheath’s Memorial Park. I began monitoring his ‘boudoir’ in mid August 2018.
Without doubt it was one of the most beautiful, symmetrically arranged collections of blue treasures I had ever seen.
WOOING IS A WEARYSOME BUSINESS
The poor fellow must have been fed up and exhausted with all the collecting and re-arranging of objects and the constant repairing and enhancing of the delicate, grass bower. Then of course there was the energy expended in dancing and displaying, not to mention the final, intimate activity with his string of paramours. After Christmas he appeared less often, and seemed to lose interest in his remarkable home.
The photo below was taken on January 7. Look how scruffy the bower is. Also, a lot of the treasures have been stolen by rivals. I decided this signaled the end of ‘affairs’ until next season.
For some reason I peeped in again on the morning of January 9, and what a surprise! He had tidied the premises up and was re-arranging his depleted treasures. What on earth was going on??
A few hours later I called in on my way home from the village. Some familiar whirring and chirring sounds had attracted my attention. Good grief, he had attracted a new admirer. But hold on, something was amiss.
BOWER ‘BRIDE’ IN ODD ATTIRE
Yes, no mistaking those splashes of blue/black plumage. This visitor was a juvenile male, probably only a year from maturity. After a good deal of displaying and dancing by Mr Bowerbid the youngster actually entered the ‘bridal suite’.
Now many birds participate in homosexual behavior. Was this what I was seeing?
Well, it seems not. Juvenile males enter the bowers of mature birds as part of a tutoring process. It provides them with an opportunity to learn the finer points of display, dance and vocalization. Isn’t nature wonderful?
Now the interesting thing is that these ‘training sessions’ usually occur at the beginning rather than the end of the breeding season. A juvenile male may visit when the bower is complete, but before prospective female partners have started to arrive. Just how unusual the behavior I witnessed is, I have no idea. It was certainly a great privilege to see it though.
January 11…..I called in again and the bower was looking great. Mr S. was sitting above in the wild cherry tree. I’m not sure whether he was waiting for a new pupil or a ‘last chance’ paramour!