Bower Bird, the name of two genera of conirostral birds of the starling family, peculiar to Australia. In the genus ptilonorhyncTius (Kuhl) the bill is moderate, compressed, arched, and notched at the tip; the nostrils lateral, deeply sunk, with large opening partly concealed by projecting plumes; wings long and pointed, the first three quills graduated, and the fourth and fifth equal and longest; tail short and even; tarsi much longer than middle toe, robust and scaled; all four toes long and strong, with sharp claws. Two species are described by Gray, found chiefly in forests bordering the larger rivers of Australia, and in thick brushes of cedar; when perched on lofty trees they utter loud and harsh notes, somewhat resembling those of a domestic cat; they congregate in autumn in small flocks on the ground. The satin bower bird (P. holosericevs, Kuhl) is about the size of a jackdaw or small crow; in the adult male the plumage is deep satiny blue black, the primaries velvety black, and the wings and tail of the last color, edged with blue black; eyes light blue, with red circle around the pupil; bill bluish horn-colored, yellowish at tip, and legs and feet yellowish white.
The female is grayish green above, the wings and tail sulphur brown; yellowish below, each feather scaled with a dark brown border. The old males are more rarely seen than the females and young males, and the last do not get their glossy plumage till the second or third year. They feed on berries and fruits, especially wild figs and the native cherry, and they often attack the ripening crops of the settlers. The common name is derived from the singular habit which the females have of making very extraordinary bower-like structures, of various sizes, which are the most curious examples of bird architecture on record, displaying more ingenuity combined with taste than any other members of the class of birds. On the ground, generally under the shelter of trees in a retired place, they form a dome-shaped bower of sticks and twigs on a platform of the same materials; these are so interwoven that the tops of the twigs turn in and nearly meet at the top, the forks always pointing outward so as to offer no obstruction to the ingress and egress of the birds.
But the most singular habit is the manner in which the bower is ornamented; they collect with great perseverance all kinds of brilliant and striking objects, such as the gaudy feathers of parrots, shells, skulls, and bleached bones of small animals, bright stones, and such high-colored rags as they can find about the houses of the natives and settlers; these they place at or near the entrances, introducing feathers between the interstices in the most fantastic and often in a very pleasing manner; so prone are these birds to pick up any odd-looking thing, that the natives always search their bowers, sure of finding many articles which they have missed from their scanty possessions. These bowers, according to Mr. Gould ( " Birds of Australia," London, 1848), are not used as nests, but probably as assembly rooms, where many individuals of both sexes sport in the most playful manner; they are probably also used as places of rendezvous during pairing time, and for the elegancies and amusements rather than the necessities of bird life. This species is the cowry of the natives, and is found chiefly, if not only, in New South Wales; the male has a loud liquid call, besides the harsh note common to both sexes.
The green satin bird (P. Smithii, Vig. and Horsf.) is rather smaller; the general color is a parrot green, with the ends of the wing coverts, secondaries, and most of the tail feathers tipped with white, and below with oval spots of the same. The food and the habitat are the same as in the last species, but it has not been ascertained that it makes a bower; it is called cat bird by the colonists, from the resemblance of its notes to the nightly concerts of the domestic cat. - The genus cJilamydera (Gould) differs in having the nostrils exposed, a long and slightly rounded tail, and the third and fourth quills equal and longest. They are very shy birds, frequenting the forests and brushes of Australia; the food consists of fruits and seeds. They make still more remarkable bowers than the preceding genus, and the structures are longer and more avenue-like, made externally of interwoven twigs, and lined with tall grasses meeting above; they are decorated with bivalve shells, stones, small skulls, and whitened bones, the stones being arranged as a pavement, and so as to keep the grasses in place.
The spotted bower bird (C. maculata, Gould) is about 11 inches long, the general color above being deep brown, each feather tipped with buff and edged with black on the head; the back of the neck is crossed by a broad frill of rosy pink elongated feathers; the lower parts grayish white; both sexes have the frill, except when young. In some of the larger bowers made by this bird, which had evidently been used for years, Mr. Gould has seen nearly half a bushel of shells and pebbles at each entrance, which had been brought from the shore at a considerable distance. The great bower bird (C. nuchalis, Gould) is about 15 inches long, and occurs in N. W. Australia; it is grayish brown above, satiny on the head, tipped with grayish white; on the nape a rosy pink frill partly encircled with a ruff of satiny plumes; yellowish gray below, tinged with brown; it makes highly ornamented bowers.
Satin Bower Bird (Ptilonorhynchus holosericeus).