The Vogelkop bowerbird might lack the spectacular plumage associated with male bird courtship but he has other tactics for attracting a mate: an extraordinary repertoire of song and a wonderful ability to mimic. For example, he can reproduce the sound of pigeon wing beats, and the songs of modest tiger parrots and sulphur-crested cockatoos. Even more surprising is that he's an avid collector, with an appreciative eye for colour. He favours red and orange flowers and fungus, and lays his treasures out neatly. Not everything stays where it should, though as he collects shiny beetles that keep wandering off... He displays his collection in a large structure, that has taken many years to build, in the hope it will catch the eye of a female. A nearby male with a preference for darker colours has collected deer dung and charcoal. Visual effect is of crucial importance and clearly this male hadn't counted on the resulting fungal infestation, which he now has to keep 'pruning'. These rivals live a stone's throw apart and competition is intense. A female inspects the dung bower workmanship, and seems impressed at first, but closer inspection leaves her less convinced. Back at the flower bower, the male performs a dress rehearsal, then when the female is watching, he launches into his full mimic repertoire, with the bower acting as an amplifier. The female is seduced and the pair mates.
Available since: Wed 4 Nov 2009
- David Attenborough
- Patrick Morris
- Executive Producer
- Michael Gunton