Satin bowerbird

Ptilonorhynchus violaceus taxonomy

Ptilonorhynchus violaceus Vieillot, 1816, Nouvelle Hollande = Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Two subspecies.

other common names

English: Satin bird, satin grackle, purple satin; French: Jardinier satiné; German: Seidenlaubenvogel; Spanish: Capulinero Satinado.

physical characteristics

13 in (33 cm); female 0.38-0.57 lb (170-258 g), male 0.38-0.64 lb (173-290 g). Iridescent black plumage with light legs and

bill. Female slightly smaller with green, gray-green, brown, and buff coloring.


Eastern and southeastern Australia. P. v. violaceus: coastal zone of southeast Australia from Otway Range, immediately east of Melbourne, east and North to Dawes Range just south of the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton; from sea level to 3,600 ft (1,100 m). P. v. minor: Australian wet tropics, from Seaview-Paluma Range north to Mount Amos near Cooktown, typically over 1,970 ft (600 m) altitude.


Rainforests, with a strong preference for their edges, and adjacent woodlands with dense sapling understory. Frequents more open habitats when winter flocking, then frequents pastures and urban/suburban areas.


Males build bowers to attract females. Avenue bowers are fairly evenly and linearly dispersed at an average of about 990 ft (300 m) apart along rainforest edges, often further apart in rainforest patches and woodlands. Mostly bluish and greenish yellow items are used as decorations, including flowers, fruits, parrot feathers, snake skin, snail shells, and numerous humanmade objects. Seasonal bower attendance commences in late August/September and peaks during October through December. Adult males emit advertisement vocalizations with a clearly-whistled quoo-eeeew, various harsh notes, and vocal mimicry.

feeding ecology and diet

Omnivorous but predominantly frugivorous. Also eats flowers, leaves, nectar, seeds, and animals including cicadas, beetles, and other arthropods. Forages mostly in the canopy but winter flocks forage on the ground for pasture leaves and herbs.

reproductive biology

Polygynous, with promiscuous males and exclusively female nest attendance. Breeding occurs August/September through February. Egg laying peaks in November and December. Typically builds open cup nest in trees or bushes, but also in vine tangles and mistletoe, at 6.6-131 ft (2-40 m) above ground. Nests are composed of a shallow saucer of sticks and twigs and an egg-cup lining of green and dry leaves (mostly of Eucalyptus and Acacia). One to three colored and blotched, rarely vermiculated, eggs are laid. Incubation is 21-22 days and nestling period is 17-21 days.

conservation status

Not threatened. A common to reasonably abundant bird in remaining habitat but has lost habitat because of human land use.

significance to humans

Ornithological and popular literature contains numerous stories of males removing jewelry, keys, and other items from homes, vehicles, camps, etc. to decorate bowers ♦

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