Get to know this rare Flame Bowerbird, a truly unique bird from Papua New Guinea.
He moves like a small fireball along the green and brown forest floor – with a whoosh and a bounce across shrubs and moss beds. He is an almost fairytale-like creature; his plumage the most brilliant red, orange and yellow one will ever see in the southern hemisphere.
This is no mythical animal, however. It even has a scientific name: Sericulus ardens.
Introducing one of Papua New Guinea’s hottest avian bachelors: the male Flame Bowerbird. Found in the interior rainforests of Papua New Guinea, particularly in the Western Province, this handsome and iconic bird is highly sought after by a growing number of visiting bird watchers.
The male Flame Bowerbird is one of the most breathtaking and mesmerising birds to watch in the wild. This beautiful creature spends its entire life in the pursuit of love, and the fascinating courtship dance it is gradually becoming known for owes a lot to its place of origin on the island of New Guinea – thanks to geography, evolution and natural selection.
Several nature films online offer wonderful insights into the romantic pursuits of the Flame Bowerbird. One can never seem to tire of watching this charming bird, whether in the wild or on screen. As observers of nature, one cannot help but be inspired by the life of all organisms living on this planet. These are bountiful lessons that nature can offer us in life.
1. Be proud of your colours
Adult Flame Bowerbirds can grow up to 25cm long and 18cm wide. The males are the most colourful, with flame-orange feathers running from head to chest then bright yellow with their tails tipped black. The females are not as visually striking as their male counterparts, with a tawny green colour and a golden-yellow tummy. The enchanting colours of the male Flame Bowerbird are the greatest assets of his showmanship. However, being the brightest thing in the forest can also attract unwanted attention – especially from predators like eagles, hawks and large lizards. Regardless of this, determined and undeterred, the Flame Bowerbird never falters from his chosen path: he carries on as the star of his bright, bold and beautiful life.
2. Keep your home beautiful and tidy
The male Flame Bowerbird is an impeccable host. As a member of the bowerbird family, he is a skilled builder, and known for his bowers that are built solely for wooing his visiting mistresses. His bower is a small yet unique throne-like structure built out of dry twigs with a protruding wall. During his courtship dance, the female will be seen perched in the bower looking at the performance before her. He showers her with gifts, which are often brightly coloured objects such as berries, leaves, shells, pebbles and more. These presents are positioned around the bower or placed at his guests’ feet when they arrive. The Flame Bowerbird’s bachelor pad is always kept neat, and the owner can be seen relentlessly clearing fallen leaves and other debris from his stage, as well as adjusting his bower so it is structurally sound for his guests to sit comfortably in.
3. Dance without fear
Dancing is what the Flame Bowerbird does best, and he does this with such intensity that he is quite spellbinding to watch. At first his eyes dilate and contract in odd sequence, like the aperture of a camera lens: it makes one feel like you’re looking at a spiral ‘hypno-wheel.’ His performance transitions to crouching, then slowly rising as he deliberately waves one side of his gorgeous flame-coloured wings. His courtship dance can take up to 40 minutes – quite a feat for keeping one’s audience enthralled – but it has been a dance his species has taken aeons to perfect.
4. ALWAYS Persevere
Female Flame Bowerbirds are incredibly selective and are not easily impressed by their suitors. Males have to work extremely hard to prove themselves worthy of the female’s time and attention. Perseverance is key to their day-to-day existence, and nothing except their species’ jealous rivalries can hinder their amorous pursuits. Their temperamental behaviour often leads to male envy, which involves deliberately interrupting each other’s courtship displays or destroying bowers of their rivals. In their average 20- to 30-year lifespan Flame Bowerbirds face many threats to their survival, such as predators and human impacts on their environment, including habitat loss and degradation, and hunting. Although the Flame Bowerbird is listed as ‘Least Concern’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, their population has been decreasing since their discovery.
Since appearing on documentaries by world-renowned broadcasters such as the BBC and National Geographic, as well as in the highly acclaimed ‘Dancing with the Birds’ 2019 film on Netflix, the Flame Bowerbird has captivated people the world over with its sunset colours and enchanting dances. This extraordinary Papua New Guinean bird deserves to be studied and protected for future generations to admire and appreciate.
To learn more about Papa New Guinea, click here.