Bowerbirds inadvertently cultivate flowers

By AAP with AG Staff 23 April 2012
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Bowerbirds in Queensland have been found to be accidentally growing flowers as part of their mating ritual.

GIVING FLORAL GIFTS to a loved one is a tried-and-tested romantic gesture.

Now British scientists have revealed that bowerbirds in Queensland have been accidentally growing flowers as a side effect of their efforts to attract mates.

Researchers, including academics from the University of Exeter, found high numbers of potato bush plants near the homes of Australian bowerbirds.

They believe the birds are unintentionally growing the brightly coloured plants by gathering them as decorations close to their sites of habitation.

Bowerbird courtship rituals

The birds are known for their unique courtship behaviour, where males collect sticks and objects to build a structure called a bower to catch the attention of females.

It is the first evidence of a non-human species growing plants for a use other than food, the scientists say.

Lead researcher Dr Joah Madden says: “We grow plants for all kinds of things, from drugs to clothing to props, that we use in our sexual displays such as roses. But it seems we are not unique in this respect.”

Farmers of the bird world

“We do not believe bowerbirds are intentionally growing these plants, but this accumulation of preferred objects close to a site of habitation is arguably the way any cultivation begins.

“It will be very interesting to see how this mutually beneficial relationship between bowerbirds and these plants develops,” he says.

The research team carried out their observations in Taunton National Park in central Queensland. Bowerbirds are native to Australia and Papua New Guinea.