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Bowerbirds `woo mates with illusions`

Last Updated: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 12:46

Melbourne: Avians are move clever than you thought, with some displaying traits often similar to humans -- for example, bowerbirds found in Australia woo mates with a lavish house of illusions, says a new study.

In fact, a team led by Prof John Endler at James Cook University has found that the better illusion a bowerbird creates, the more times it mates.

"Bowerbirds are extremely interesting and intelligent birds. They build bowers only for attracting females for mating; after mating the females go off to build a nest and raise young independently of any males.

"So the bower is nothing more than a complex visual signal to females and a mating place," he said.

The study involved recording the geometric patterns of objects on the bower courts. The researchers placed motion- activated solar-powered video recorders next to the bowers and recorded the behaviour and numbers of matings by males.

The study was conducted over several months at Dreghorn Station, a cattle station southeast of Charters Towers, before the researchers came to the conclusion.

Prof Endler said that he was trying to understand the selective advantage of creating "false visual perspective" for viewing by females, with objects carefully arranged according to their size as they watch the bower-building male`s display.

"I concluded males who build bowers with more effective false visual perspective, as seen by females, had more matings," he said in a university release.

Prof Endler said males also regularly stole each other`s bower decorations and destroyed each other`s bowers.

"This means that I can make minor experimental manipulations of their bowers to change their visual signals, and this would be minor in comparison to what they do to each other," he said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 12:46
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