Bowerbird: Animal Dreaming


I’ve been so excited about this post!  The bowerbird is fascinating and interesting and amazing!  These architects of the bird world build complex and intriguing structures.  Some even paint these elaborate creations using natural pigments.  They collect treasures from the environment to decorate these intricate displays.  And why?  It is an activity carried out by the males as part of the mating ritual.

This is a painstaking process.  You need to prepare, think ahead, pull together the resources available and then carefully build your work of art.  You may need to steal from your fellow birds, you must keep an eye out for opportunities and you must gather your strength, your creativeness and your treasures.

A bower must be decorative, with a carefully arranged display of objects, a dowry.  These objects include shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, bones*, berries, plastic, glass or anything else the male may find, satin bowerbirds being particularly fond of blue objects. And it’s not a rough and ready affair.  The male spends hours arranging his display.  You must dedicate yourself to the work for this is your future.  If you do not impress the females, your genes will not be passed on.

Bowerbirds have also been observed creating optical illusions in their bowers to appeal to mates. They arrange objects in the bower’s court area from smallest to largest, creating a forced perspective which holds the attention of the female for longer. Males with objects arranged in a way that have a strong optical illusion are likely to have higher mating success.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Once a female has been attracted by the bower, you must start the elaborate mating ritual.  This involves expanding your pupils alternately, a call and dance then waving of wings like a matador followed by headbutting the female…  All of this is to prove yourself worthy to her.

Once a mate has been found, the male will fertilise her and then she has the job of building a nest and chick rearing all by herself.  Presumably leaving the male to continue preening his creation.  Which you will have noticed is not doubling up as a nest.  This feels strange to us when most animal behaviour has a clearer function.

Dowries, the keyword for this card, are gifts or money which is given by the brides family to the husbands family when they marry.  Whilst no actual dowry is transferred between the birds, it does feel like the male is the one offering the treasure instead.  I don’t think she actually takes any of his objects but there is a feeling that they are displaying their wealth and enticing her with it rather than her bringing the offering as in the human sense of the word.  Regardless, I feel that this card and the keyword are asking us to look around and see what resources and treasures we have and to think about our relationship to them and how we treat them.  By resources and treasures I am including knowledge, opportunities, friends, family and environment as well as what you physically own or have access to.  We are all abundant in some way.

*Because of their bone collecting habit, the aboriginal people called the bowerbird the ghost bird.


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