This Blog is inspired by a song that I wrote many years ago, called the Mating Game, which was in turn inspired by the bower bird, that lives in Australia! When I first began to write songs for kids about animals, I was always searching for fascinating creatures to write about. Well, there are certainly plenty of amazing critters living on this earth and the bower bird is definitely one of the more colorful characters!
Male bower birds have a complex mating behavior. Unlike other birds who might rely on a pretty tune, or a fabulous plumage display to entice the opposite sex, the male bower builds a great house! And, not only does he build it, he decorates it with colorful items; everything from feathers, to shells and berries, even colorful flowers or feathers, anything to spice up the décor! The iridescent blue Satin bower birds
(pictured above) even paint the walls of their structures, mashing up berries for pigment and using twigs as brushes! Apparently female bower birds like the color blue!
What really grabbed my attention (as if that wasn’t enough), was the fact that these elaborate constructions are not to used as family homes but rather as a bachelor pad from which the males can attract a bevy of females! Hello! Sorry, but images of guys cruising in their cars sprang to mind!
So then I began to look at other birds and their mating rituals and of course I found plenty more cool characters! Male weaver birds, for example, build elaborate nests (like the ones pictured here) and then hang upside down from the structure, flapping their wings, to grab the attention of females. Watch a Video of male weavers building their nests.
The lyre bird actually clears a space, like a dance floor, in the forest and then proceeds to imitate the calls of other birds he hears around him! They can copy the sounds of at least twenty other species as well as a variety of sounds they hear in the forest. If you watch This Video you will hear one imitating a camera shutter, a chain saw and an alarm signal!
When the argus pheasant throws up his wings to impress a female, an incredible display of eyes greets her! This photo shows an argus pheasant, but not the display – you can find photos on-line to show the kids, but I could not find one in the public domain other than this one.
1. For older Grades, there is a very interesting evolutionary genetic consequence that could possibly result from the bower bird’s architectural prowess. It would have to do with the fact that it is the bird with the most elaborate bower who attracts the most females, not the bird with the brightest feathers! The result of course night be that other genetic strengths, such as color, weight might be affected. Here is an interesting Article on bird body language.
2. Show younger kids the videos of a bower bird Making His Bower, or find pictures to show them. Then invite them to draw or paint a picture of what their bower would be like!
3. How do humans attract the opposite sex? What are some of the similarities between humans and these birds? That could be a fun discussion!
4. It is the male weaver bird that build the nest; what other male animals demonstrate good mate behavior? A hint – penguins, sea horses and emus.
Songs: I have uploaded two songs to my MySpace page – The Mating Game and the Boys do Their Share!
The natural world never ceases to amaze me, and I still believe that by introducing children to its splendors we are providing them with the greatest environmental lessons available.
"In The End We will conserve only what we love We will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught" ~ Baba Dioum (Senegal)
As a child, I was fortunate enough to have a governess called Jo (mainly because there were no appropriate schools close to my home) and she began each day by opening National Geographic! Together with my three classmates, we would explore the world, article by article! As you can imagine, my young girl’s imagination flourished as I traveled the globe. Looking back, I can appreciate now the magnitude of the gift that she gave me.
Have fun exploring with your kids!
In gratitude to the earth and all life,
The photos I use in most of my Blogs come from the Creative Commons at Wikimedia
The Satin Bower Bird photo is by Brett Donald
The Lyrebird photo is by Attis
The Argus Pheasant is by Stavenn
I thank all the photographers who share their work with us in this way.