Photo: C & D Frith
Australian Tropical Birds
ENDEMIC Tropical North QLD
Scenopoeetes dentirostris 26 cm
The Tooth-billed Bowerbird is one of 12 bird
species endemic to the Wet Tropics region.
The display court is simple, comprising a low perch
for singing, above an area cleared of litter and decorated with leaves turned
pale surface uppermost.
· Also known as the Stagemaker, the Tooth-billed Bowerbird is endemic and
It is unlike other bowerbirds as the male bird does not build a bower, but
(does not travel far). It lives in the Atherton Region of Australia between
600 and 1400m
he clears a small area of land. This is referred to as his stage or his court.
It is of medium size (24-27cm), olive-brown in colour, and has a dark bill with
notches in it used to cut off leaves for use in decorating his stage.
The male uses the same area of rainforest floor for constructing his stage as the
year before. It is constructed at the beginning of the breeding season from
The stage may be as large as a 4 x 2m clearing.
As decorations, he places fresh leaves with their paler sides turned up (to
greater contrast on the floor of leaf litter and debris) on the ground. He manages
detach these leaves from trees by using a difficult gnawing action through their
Up to 180 small leaves may be collected for a single stage, and the males
compete and copy
each other to find the biggest or most valuable leaves for their
own use. Some birds
prefer large leaves, and those of the wild ginger plant (up to
50cm long) have been seen
used. As leaves dry out, or if they become saturated
from the rain, they will be pushed
aside to form a pile to the side of the stage.
The male also has an extensive variety of calls that can be heard throughout the
rainforest at this time to attract females. He often mimics other bird species or
within the rainforest. If he cannot hear one of his neighbours calling, he
may raid their
stage and steal their leaves (as this may be quicker than obtaining
one for themselves).
His vocalisations, displays, stage and decorations must all impress visiting
females if he is to gain a partner.
The males form what is known as an exploded lek this is a place where they
all hear each other and try to attract females to mate. They may mate with many
females in the same season (from October to March). Females depart to lay their
(usually 1 to 2) and raise the young alone.
A male may spend 95 percent of the day on average singing from his perch, often
2-3m above his stage.
In winter, the male is inactive and quiet amongst the canopy, and much harder to
see and hear. With no bright patterns on his plumage, he blends in to the canopy.
They eat fruit, leaves, stems, buds, insects and their larvae.
It is observed readily round Chambers Wildlife
Rainforest Lodge, especially during
the breeding season from September to January.
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