Fine birds need fine feathers and the flame bowerbird is an example of the brilliant possibilities of color. This rainforest bird is endemic to and distributed in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. These brilliantly colored flame bowerbirds got their name from the exquisitely colored plumage.
The flame bowerbirds (Sericulus gardens) are named after the bowers, or nests, built and decorated with exquisite and colorful objects by the males. These elaborate structures are part of their exclusive courtship ritual, one of the most elaborate ones in the animal kingdom.
It was earlier mistaken for the Bird-of-paradise for its elaborate ritual. The male flame bowerbird has a complex courtship display, as he turns and coils its tail and wings to its sides and rapidly moves its head. It is a medium-sized bird and grows to a maximum length of 25 centimeters. The golden yellow-topped up with the flame orange resembles a brilliant sunset. They have elongated neck plumes and a yellow-tipped black tail. Its bower is an ‘avenue type nest with two side walls built with sticks.
The female bowerbird is doesn’t have the brilliant colors of the male. It is olive-brown will golden or yellow in the lower part. Their elaborate courtship was fully captured by Tadashi Shimada, a Japanese photographer in his documentary, Dancers on Fire.
In the documentary, the male is seen courting the female twice, though it did not culminate in a successful behavior as the female moved away as the male mounted. However certain other unusual mating behavior patterns were captured by Shimada, including a male flame bowerbird courting another male, a juvenile, and another strange behavior of a group of males, including juveniles and a single male sharing a bower. It was later destroyed by another juvenile flame bowerbird.
Habitat Of The Flame Bowerbird
The flame bowerbirds frequent the montane rainforests and the lowlands between 850 meters to 1,400 meters. Little is known about the flame bowerbird diet except that it certainly includes insects and fruits. The bird usually forages in small groups or individually. At times it also forages with fruit-eating species like the VOgelkop bowerbird.
The display and mating season starts in August and November. The male flame bowerbird builds bowers and attends it to attract a female. They build a nest on their own and even breed alone. The bower is built with sticks and is 23 centimeters long, 16 centimeters wide, and 19 centimeters high. The male decorates the bower with colorful flowers, fruits, snail sheets, and leaves. Its use of color varies from purple to brown, to blue.
The male indulges in a dance ritual to attract the female to the bower. There are two different subspecies though some researchers classify them under two different species. There is the flame bowerbird, and the masked bowerbird (Sericulus aureus).
The former is familiar to the south-western part of New Guinea and has the distinct orange face of the male. The latter is common to the northwestern part of New GAuinea and the male has a black throat and a black face.
The flame bowerbird is listed under the species with Least Concern on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, established in 1964. This list is the most comprehensive source of information on the extinction risk status globally of fungus, plant species, and animals.
It is a common trait for the male flame bowerbird to have beyond a single mating partner. The eggs are laid takes place in a nest and not the bower, which is nothing more than a stage for the mating process. The nest is a saucer-shaped one, high above the ground, with the female bird shielding the eggs. The female lays and also does the hatching without help from the male. The flame bowerbirds live for around 20 to 30 years and reproduce several times in their lifetime.