Empty Nest

29 December, 2007

Question: This nest was found under a tree in the Forest Gallery at the Melbourne Museum. Who did it belong to?

A Satin Bowerbird nest

The empty nest found in the Melbourne Museum's Forest Gallery
Photographer: Nicole Kearney, Source: Museum Victoria

Answer: This nest was built by Satin Bowerbirds, Ptilonorhynchus violaceus.

A male Satin BowerbirdA female Satin Bowerbird

A male (left) and female (right) Satin Bower Bird.
Photographer/Source: Gary Lewis

There are two adult Satin Bowerbirds that live in Melbourne Museum’s Forest Gallery. Each year the male builds and maintains an elaborate bower of twigs, which he then decorates with blue and yellow objects. Unlike wild Bowerbirds, our male is restricted in his decorating by what he can find in the Forest Gallery.

Shells and berries are in short supply, so he scavenges for whatever brightly coloured items he can find: plastic straws, colourful museum tickets and bits of maps. Staff regularly introduce blue items to the Forest Gallery to keep him happy, although occasionally he makes his own surprise discoveries. He recently added a very special treasure to his display: a shiny set of keys. Justifiably, he was most put out when they were discovered and returned to their relieved owner.

Despite the removal of his pretty keys, the male was successful in wooing the resident female this year and she then built this beautiful nest. Male Satin Bowerbirds do not help to incubate their eggs or feed their chicks, but visitors to the Melbourne Museum were able to watch the female flying back and forth with food for her two babies.

In early summer the two chicks left the nest and can now be seen flying around the Forest Gallery. The female is still feeding them, but they are learning to find their own food as well.

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