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Ptilonorhynchidae – Bowerbirds

Golden Bowerbird in Australia: Photo by Laurie Ross

The family Ptilonorhynchidae, known as bowerbirds, consists of about 20 species found in Australia and New Guinea. These birds are famous for the elaborate structures, or bowers, that males build and decorate to attract females.

Overview of Ptilonorhynchidae

Like the birds-of-paradise, their somewhat distantly related neighbors in Australo-Papuan forests, members of this family exemplify the whimsy of sexual selection run rampant. Male bowerbirds have adopted a distinctive dimension for expressing their ardor, building bowers to attract and woo prospective mates. Decorated with blossoms, fruits, snake skins, bottle caps, or bits of plastic in the colors preferred by females, these bowers are exquisite creations requiring great effort to produce, maintain, and defend. Interestingly, the largest and most spectacular bowers are often made by species with the drabbest males, suggesting a compensatory relationship between plumage brightness and bower complexity, indicative of intense sexual selection in all.