Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Satin Bowerbird likes apples

Well, that will hardly surprise anyone who knows these birds.

Today there were many Satin Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) hanging around, so I put out 3 small apples on the feed tables. I have fitted screws through the bottom of the wooden feeder table (from below) thus giving me a threaded point sticking upwards. That means I can screw the apple onto the point (or just push it on if the apple is soft).
A male "Blue Bird", a Satin Bowerbird tests out the feed table.
These birds are so dark blue that they appear black,
unless the light is reflected off the highly shiny feathers,
at which point the feathers have a purplish sheen.
The system of screws as spikes to hold the fruit in place has the advantage that the birds have to peck the fruit to bits. The apple cannot just blow off or roll off the feed table.
The table is made of heavy plywood (7 Ply)
The screws are about 3 inches long, and are drilled up from below.
Up until now I have resisted the temptation to provide food for wild birds. I do not want to attract too many parrots and especially not any introduced birds. So I will not put out grain. That's why I have built a flat table, and not a tray. Also, in view of our high rainfall, it avoids any problem of soggy grain or bits of bread, which can attract vermin. But I figure that some fresh fruit will be OK. So do the Satin Bowerbirds, obviously.
Click on the image to enlarge it, to see the bird's violet eye.
Normally these birds are very shy, and also observant, so whenever I bring out a camera, they disappear. This bird was clearly nervous, and suspicious of my intentions. But it did decide it could get a few useful pecks of the apples because I was sitting at the far end of the deck, 15 metres away.

Here are some images from my friend George, of a female Bowerbird, at his place, and head shots of a female, an immature male and an adult male, for comparison purposes. The number of "green birds" always far exceeds the number of "blue birds" because young males keep the green plumage until they mature fully, which might be as long as 7 years of age.
Head images - for beak colour comparisons.
A - female or juvenile male, with dark beak.
B - immature male, with bone-coloured beak.
C - Mature male - the so-called "Blue Bird"


mick said...

Lovely photos of the Satin Bowerbirds. I like your solution to the problem of feeding birds. I am still struggling towards a solution up here. The fruit one wouldn't work as the white cockies LOVE fruit! I have been told that only putting out very small seed will avoid encouraging the bigger seed-eating parrots etc. Don't know - haven't tried it yet!??

Anonymous said...

Hi Dennis - Great photos and commentary on an exquisite bird. I agree with your policy of not feeding birds that in a very short while would become welfare dependent.

Suggestion: With regards to photography, I'm wondering whether impaling the apples on your wattle tree would have given you a more natural setting. The apples can always be edited out.

I first became aware of this lovely creature many long years ago. Isn't it the Bowerbird that steals, collects, hoards bits of blue china, glass and bric-a-brac?

Cheers, Tarkineus

Gouldiae said...

G'day Denis,
Nice idea of the 'screws' for the apples. If you're not going to patent it, I wouldn't mind adopting it around here. Nice to have the satins in the garden isn't it? Any bowers nearby?

Denis Wilson said...

Welcome Tark and other Birds in Backyard visitors.
I tried to work out away of fixing the apples, to prevent them being knocked off. One could try using a large nail in a tree, and cutting the head off after hammering it in. But I prefer not to damage the tree.
Thanks for the reminder to go down the bottom of my hill and photograph the bower which is down there.
There are probably others, but that's the only one I know of on my block.
I have a friend who has one in his front garden. Very convenient (for him).

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Gouldiae
Well, as you can see, no everybody agrees. I figure that a very occasional feed of fruit is not too bad.
Feel free to adopt the technique, or as has also been discussed, use a 5 inch (galvanised) nail hammered into a tree and then cut the head off with a bolt-cutter, to give you a "spike" to hold the apple or pear.
Your possums would love you too!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
I am fortunate that we do not have White Cockies in any great numbers here. They do tend to mob all other birds, I have seen (at other people's feeders).
Little birds will come to fine seed. Pannikin used be the seed of choice to Budgerigah and Finch aviary people. Trouble is, the seeds germinate very readily, and you can end up with a weed problem.
In general, the best answer is provide habitat.
Water is also very good, but needs to be kept clean and fresh, and away from cats.

Snail said...

Beautiful birds! And well-mannered too, by the look of things. Had they been catbirds, they would have taken the apples, the screws and the plywood sheet. They'd have had a go at the post as well, if they thought they could carry it!

Denis Wilson said...

Sounds like The Catbirds have impressed you with their determination.