Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bird Art

I learned a new word on Nova the other night. A bower is a display made by a male bird, of any number of species, intended to attract the female bird. They are usually on the ground, most often made of groups of things in one color, and they often make a little entryway out of twigs. Some birds collected berries all in one color, some collected bones. They tend to be in flat arrangements, not piles, and have also been made of beetle casings, blossoms, trash (still artfully arranged), and leaves. (However, at least one bird is very particular about his arrangement, and if you turn a leaf face down he will return and turn it back face up.) The birds have to be vigilant about their bowers or other birds will pillage. And if the bower is not as successful, they may have to go as far as displaying the tops of their colorful heads to the female to do the trick. Other, more colorful birds, make less impressive bowers because they themselves are colorful enough. The bowers are like bird art installations; very Andy Goldsworthy, although now that I’ve seen this I realize it’s clearly the other way around. Once again proving that we are not so different from our bird kin.


DAM said...

Care to wager that the less colorful birds have better personalities and treat their partners better? (Yeah, it's a gross generalization. So what.)

I recently learned, and may have mentioned it here, that ALL species cheat. Yes, a couple did research and even filmed birds cheating on one another. Male and female. She needs a mate to both impregnate her and protect the eggs. She sluts around because the more male birds she has, the more protection. A migratory mafia? The male needs to spread his seed to ensure the perpetuation of his genes. Very 1950's, but it seems to be a biological imperative.

All that being said, I'd like to see the bowers. It amazes me how the animal kingdom lives, mates and thrives.

B said...

Andy Goldsworthy is such a brillant man. So patient... I don't know how much patience I would have licking leaves, sticking them together and having them fall apart on me.

Elizabeth Crane said...

I'm sure I wouldn't either, Byron, as I like to keep everything for ever and ever. But for whatever reason Goldsworthy seems to enjoy the empemera of the entire enterprise.
My guess is the less colorful birds do have more interesting personalities given that they try harder with their art. I once dated a model a million years ago who was interested in acting and I asked him if he studied and he said he was pretty much planning on getting by on his looks. Judging by his anonymity I am going to say that didn't work for him.
Oh, and yes, the male birds want to attract as many females as possible. Luckily I haven't had much of a problem with anyone cheating in my life, just a little drug addiction and mental illness.