Overview

Distribution

Range

E Australia (Clarke Range, Queensland to Gosford, NSW).

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Geographic Range

Regent bowerbirds are found in rainforests on the east coast of Australia, east of the Great Dividing Range, in southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales. They mostly stay in the same area year-round, but in the winter they may move from higher altitudes to coastal areas. Their total range covers an area of about 20,000 to 50,000 kilometers squared.

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

  • Australian Museum. 2006. "Birds in Backyards" (On-line). Regent Bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus). Accessed December 20, 2008 at http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/finder/display.cfm?id=313.
  • BirdLife International, 2008. "2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Sericulus chrysocephalus. Accessed December 20, 2008 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/146081.
  • Lenz, N. 1994. Mating Behavior and Sexual Competition in the Regent Bowerbird Sericulus chrysocephalus . EMU, 94: 263-272.
  • Zwiers, P., G. Borgia, R. Fleischer. 2008. Plumage based classification of the bowerbird genus Sericulus evaluated using a multi-gene, multi-genome analysis. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 46: 923-931.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae) are passerine songbirds that have several exceptional traits. Most songbirds have 9 to 10 secondary feathers, bowerbirds have more, ranging from 11 to 14. They also have larger lacrimal bones, a trait shared by lyrebirds (Menuridae). Their legs and feet are short, strong, and covered in scales. Regent bowerbirds have a notably long and slim bill compared to the other species of bowerbirds.

Regent bowerbirds exhibit sexual dimorphism. Males are mostly shiny black with glossy gold patches on their crowns, the backs of their necks, and the distal ends of their wings. They have yellow bills and eyes. Females are mottled brown with a scalloped pattern of dark and light brown. The eyes and bill are brown, with a little yellow in the eyes, in females. Immature males share features of both sexes, with their lower parts similar to females in coloration and their heads, necks, and wings darker and more similar to males. Males have brownish eyes, which change to yellow in their second year. It usually takes between two and five years for a male to attain mature plumage.

Average mass: 100 g.

Range length: 25 to 30 cm.

Average length: 28 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful

  • 2003. Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae). Pp. 477-481 in M Hutchins, J Jackson, W Bock, D Olendorf, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 11: Birds IV, 2nd Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group Inc..
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Regent bowerbirds prefer dense trees and gullies. Bowers are often built in dense liana thickets, with only a few built on open forest floor.

Range elevation: 0 to 900 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Regent bowerbirds are primarily frugivorous. They forage mostly in the canopy and upper parts of the foliage. They also take insects opportunistically.

Interestingly, a female's drive to forage for fruits of a certain color seems to be exploited by males decorating their bowers. In a study by Madden and Tanner (2003), grapes of different colors were used to determine preferences. Male preference for blue decorations was found to be correlated with female preference for eating blue grapes. This correlation seems to be common among bowerbird species, with different species favoring different colors. The fruits used as decorations aren't eaten by the male, but sometimes the female takes them away or eats them. The amounts and colors of fruit present help determine a male's mating success.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: fruit

Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore )

  • Madden, J., K. Tanner. 2003. Preferences for coloured bower decorations can be explained in a nonsexual context. Animal Behavior, 65: 1077-1083.
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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Beadell and his colleagues (2004) studied the prevalence of malaria (Plasmodium) and blood parasites (Haemoproteus) in a range of bird families found in Australia and Papua New Guinea. While they did not study regent bowerbirds specifically, they note that both parasites are common in species in the family Ptilonorhynichidae.

Regent bowerbirds disperse seeds through their consumption of fruit.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

  • Beadell, J., E. Gering, J. Austin, J. Dumbacher, M. Peirce, T. Pratt, C. Atkinson, R. Fleischer. 2004. Prevalence and differential host-specificity of two avian blood parasite genera in the Australo-Papuan region. Molecular Ecology, 13: 3829-3844.
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Predation

There are no reports of predation on regent bowerbirds. Nests and fledglings may be taken by snakes and fledglings and adults may be taken by birds of prey.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Regent bowerbirds communicate through visual displays and vocalizations. Color is very important, as seen in their bower decorations.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Bowerbirds have high average lifespans compared to other bird families, living up to 20 to 30 years. Specific information on lifespan in regent bowerbirds was not found.

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Reproduction

Regent bowerbirds mate seasonally. During breeding season, males build avenue-type bowers: unroofed corridors made out of sticks and decorations. Bowers are usually constructed by mature males, though occasionally immature males build them as well. It only takes a few hours to construct a bower, which is much less time than the days or weeks required by other bowerbird species. Each male usually has one bower at a time, though some have two. Color is very important to the bowerbirds, and even unnatural objects like plastic will be used if they are the right color. Generally only the builder of the bower maintains it, though maintenance behavior has been exhibited by visiting males.

Adult bower owners spend an average of 3% of the day working on their bowers, usually building or maintaining them. Only about 1% of their daylight hours are spent vocalizing, whether they are courting a female or displaying to a male. Immature bower owners spent far more time in each activity, up to 4 times more effort. However, regent bowerbirds spend far less time on bowers than other bowerbird species. This lack of time at the bower is explained by their habit of beginning courtship in the canopy. Bower owners often raid other bowers nearby in order to damage them or steal decorations. Favorite decorations include fruit, snail shells, and blue plastic, all of which are vulnerable to thieving. Green leaves are often present but not stolen as much as other objects. Morrell and Kokko (2004) studied raiding behavior in six species of bowerbird. Of the six, they found regent bowerbirds raided the most at 0.264 raids per day. Raiders also cause destruction of the bower. Slight damage is often repaired, but if the bower is badly damaged, the owner will relocate and build a new one. Often, before relocating, the owner will completely destroy the bower. Only one bower in a study by Lenz (1994) was rebuilt after being severely damaged, and it was owned by an immature male. Due to all this destruction, bowers don't last long. In Lenz's study, bowers only lasted ten days before abandonment or destruction.

Courtship is initiated in the canopy. The arboreal part of the courtship resembles the bower display, but is simpler. After courtship, the female is escorted to the bower, where the male continues to display. Sometimes the female arrives at the bower on her own, but females who arrived on their own did not mate with the bower owner (Lenz, 1994). The male display includes showing her the back of his neck, flicking his wings, and offering her decorations from his bower. If the female is interested, she sits in the avenue or its entrance and watches the male display for over 20 minutes before allowing copulation. Disinterested females leave the bower. A display time of over twenty minutes (averaging 24.5 minutes) is much longer than display times of other bowerbird species, which suggests the male's display is more important in courtship and may be why their bowers are less complex and less well tended than in other species. Females often visit more than one bower, but it is unclear whether this results in multiple copulations.

Mating System: polygynous

Females build shallow nests of twigs and leaves. They choose locations in foliage, often on patches of mistletoe or in a small crook of a tree. Eggs are elliptical and covered in wavy lines. If two eggs are laid, they are laid 2 days apart. Hatching occurs after about 25 days and young are ready to leave the nest 22 days later. Growth of nestlings has not been well researched in regent bowerbirds.

Breeding interval: Regent bowerbirds breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Regent bowerbirds breed from September to March.

Range eggs per season: 1 to 2.

Average time to hatching: 25 days.

Average time to independence: 22 days.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Females incubate eggs and raise the young without help from males.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Morrell, L., H. Kokko. 2004. Can too strong female choice deteriorate male ornamentation?. Proc. R. Soc. Lond., 271: 1597-1604.
  • Australian Museum. 2006. "Birds in Backyards" (On-line). Regent Bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus). Accessed December 20, 2008 at http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/finder/display.cfm?id=313.
  • 2003. Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae). Pp. 477-481 in M Hutchins, J Jackson, W Bock, D Olendorf, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 11: Birds IV, 2nd Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group Inc..
  • Lenz, N. 1994. Mating Behavior and Sexual Competition in the Regent Bowerbird Sericulus chrysocephalus . EMU, 94: 263-272.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Sericulus chrysocephalus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
Although this species may have a restricted range, it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Within their range, regent bowerbirds have relatively high population sizes and are commonly observed. While population trends have not been measured precisely, it is believed they are not declining. The IUCN Red List classifies them as Least Concern.

US Migratory Bird Act: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is reported to be locally fairly common (Flegg and Madge 1995).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Regent bowerbirds take decorations from a myriad of places, occasionally stealing interesting objects from areas of human habitation. They have been known to take items from human middens, confusing archaeologists.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Regent bowerbirds are important members of native ecosystems. They sometimes visit picnic areas, providing entertainment for birdwatchers. Bowerbirds in general are important in studies of mating behavior.

Positive Impacts: research and education

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Wikipedia

Regent Bowerbird

The Regent Bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus) is a medium-sized, up to 25 cm long, sexually dimorphic bowerbird. The male bird is black with a golden orange-yellow crown, mantle and black-tipped wing feathers. It has yellow bill, black feet and yellow iris. The female is a brown bird with whitish or fawn markings, grey bill, black feet and crown.

All male bowerbirds build bowers, which can be simple ground clearings or elaborate structures, to attract female mates. Regent bowerbirds in particular are known to mix a muddy greyish blue or pea green "saliva paint" in their mouths which they use to decorate their bowers. Regents will sometimes use wads of greenish leaves as "paintbrushes" to help spread the substance, representing one of the few known instances of tools used by birds.[2]

Female

An Australian endemic, the Regent Bowerbird is distributed to rainforests and margins of eastern Australia, from central Queensland to New South Wales. The diet consists mainly of fruits, berries and insects. The male builds an avenue-type bower consisting of two walls of sticks, decorated with shells, seeds, leaves and berries.

The name commemorates the Prince Regent of the United Kingdom.

A rare natural intergeneric hybrid between the Regent Bowerbird and the Satin Bowerbird is known as Rawnsley's Bowerbird.

A common species throughout its range, the Regent Bowerbird is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Sericulus chrysocephalus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ John Farrand Jr., The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of Animal Life, 1982
Male
Male, Lamington NP, SE Queensland, Australia
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