An empty bower

by Jessie
Publish date
21 August 2014
Comments (12)

We farewell Jack, our resident Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus), who died in the Forest Gallery this week.

Jack the Bowerbird Jack the adult male Satin Bowerbird
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria

Since Melbourne Museum opened on 9 December 2000, Jack has been a big part of the Forest Gallery. His daily calling, mimicry, aerial acrobatics and dancing entertained and excited both staff and visitors and gave him the reputation of a great entertainer. He was upwards of seven years of age in 2000, meaning this Forest Gallery icon made it to 21 years old.

Up until autumn he was still taking it in turns with his enclosure mate Errol to dance in their bowers and practise courtship behaviours. As winter progressed we started to note that Jack had slowed down and was not as vocal in the mornings. We had discussions as a team as to whether it was time for retirement but decided that Jack had spent his life in the gallery and should end it there when the time came. His time finally arrived yesterday and it feels as if a chapter in the life of this long-term exhibition has also come to a close.

Jack had many interesting adventures in the gallery. He almost died in 2000 when he for some inexplicable reason flew into the empty creek tube that runs under the earth path. He would have drowned in the water at the bottom if Luke (our then Live Exhibits Manager) hadn't raced to his rescue. This year he was a part of an exhibition at MONA with a live feed from the Forest Galelry showing Jack and the other bowerbirds cavorting with a blue teapot. His wing feathers were clipped countless times to slow him down on his over-excited exploits to court a female.  He shared the gallery with number of females, but since 2004 he only had eyes for our resident female Britney. They produced over 20 offspring which are now held in institutions and private collections across Australia.

Bowerbird with blue objects Errol the Satin Bowerbird with Toby Ziegler's contribution to the cache of blue things in the Forest Gallery. This is a still image from the video feed going in to MONA.  

With the absence of Jack, a new era has begun in the Forest Gallery. Errol, our younger male, may become the dominant make of the population. With any luck, he will continue to entertain both staff and visitors. 

Comments (12)

sort by
Andrew Kuhlmann 22 August, 2014 13:36
Thanks for the great blog! I particularly like the comment about it being the end of a chapter of the Forest Gallery. A life fully lived in this 'enclosure' endorses the efforts that go into making it real. Thanks Jack, you will be a hard act to follow.
Ella Baszczyn 22 August, 2014 16:36
What a thoughtful good-bye note Jessie! Andrew, I think Jack may continue to make our Forest Gallery real...We humans make land more familiar by naming its features.These names and stories behind them become part of a land history.We have often watched Jack enjoying bath in the creek, which waters also cradled him as he parted with life. Giving this creek Jack's name would honour him and allow us to fill an important missing aspect of this amazing exhibition.This way Jack's story could live on as part of this little land - Forest Gallery topography for one hundred years or more.
Paula Greene 23 August, 2014 13:50
Beautiful suggestion Ella - I think it would be wonderful if Jack's name can live on in the Forest Gallery!
Sharon 2 October, 2014 10:54
Ella's idea is a great one. Naming the creek after Jack is a fitting tribute to such a beautiful and much-loved resident of the Forest Gallery.
Phil Pavey 23 August, 2014 12:17
Ella's proposal to name the stream in the Forest Gallery in memory of Jack - "Jack's Creek" - and with a small plaque is a great idea.
Diantha Vess 26 August, 2014 11:30
I also love the idea of "Jack's Creek".
Bernard Caleo 27 August, 2014 14:33
Great post Jessie, great suggestion Ella. Naming 'Jack's Creek' would be a great act of memory, and memory is the work of a museum. Let's do it.
Bec 2 September, 2014 11:43
Oh Ella, what a great idea! And thanks for the lovely story Jessie, I do miss Jack on my lunchtime strolls.
Tahlia 18 September, 2014 10:08
poor jack
Judy Longbottom 5 October, 2014 00:24
thanks for the story & history Jessie. The bowerbirds have certainly delighted us in our visits to the forest over the last 10years. And a lovely idea to name the stream in Jack's memory.
Nanna Kay 6 October, 2014 11:27
We were very sad to read about Jack too. He has entertained us & our grandchildren many times. Their favourite Book is 'Bush Ranger Bill' about a very daring bower bird. We once saw Jack destroy a very inferior bower with great relish - possibly Errol's. We have our own resident bower bird with his brilliant bower, much to the children's delight.
Robyn 9 August, 2015 16:50
This first anniversary of Jack's passing provides a perfect occasion to take up Ella's suggestion to name the creek after Jack. He was a champion!
Write your comment below All fields are required

We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.