Monday, 18 September 2006

Charismatic megafauna

I like spotted catbirds (Ailuroedus melanotis). Even when they wake me up at 6 in the morning with their weird metallic caterwauling. They've got real personality. They're also pugnacious when there's food around and will chase off riflebirds and other competitors. (They'll take on brush turkeys if they're feeling up to it.)

Whereas spotted catbirds are bower birds that build neither a bower nor a display ground, the closely-related tooth-billed bowerbirds (Ailuroedus dentirostris) are fastidious stage clearers. Males arrange items on an forest-floor arena. Leaves are set out with pale undersides on show. They're laid just so.

Once the display ground is perfect (and the birds are very, very fussy), the male perches a few metres above the site and sings a complex and strange melody. The birds are well-camouflaged but the song gives them away.

(I photographed the catbird near Lake Eacham. The tooth-billed bowerbird was on the edge of the track at Lake Barrine.)

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