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Spotted Bowerbird

(Ptilonorhynchus [Chlamydera] maculata)
Alternative names: "Mimicbird", "Cabbage-bird"
Aboriginal name: "wiidhaa" [gamilaraay, yuwaalaraay]

Size: 25-31 cm

Similar species

SUBSECTIONS:     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Taxonomy, classification

See Spotted Bowerbird at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Twitcher's tip

A bower is NOT a nest - it is a male bird's courting alley. Nests, built by female birds, are in fact kept well away from bowers. A Spotted Bowerbird's nest is shown below.


Spotted Bowerbirds came to our place 20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, mostly through the winter seasons. During the heat of summer they were not seen there in the years 2003-2006.

Click here for sighting information


Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .

Close-up frontal view of a Spotted Bowerbird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

The same Spotted Bowerbird as shown above, in a slightly different posture
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

Lateral portrait of a Spotted Bowerbird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

Close-up lateral view of a Spotted Bowerbird (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Dorsal view of a Spotted Bowerbird - here one can see clearly the pink nuchal crest; when excited, the bird fans out the crest, which will then not be erected upwards, but fan out sideways, rendering a pink and purple fringe visible behind its eyes, as seen from the front
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2008]

Spotted Bowerbird preening itself and in the process displaying prominently its pink nuchal crest
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Near-frontal view of a female Spotted Bowerbird (slightly out of focus); while the male bird made its usual racket this one followed silently
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2007]

Lateral view of an female Spotted Bowerbird in a shady area
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2007]

Lateral view of a female Spotted Bowerbird in diffuse sunlight; note how different the colours appear to be compared to the photos above
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2006]

Close-up lateral view of a young Spotted Bowerbird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2007]

Only a few feathers of this Spotted Bowerbird's nuchal crest are pink - the rest is dark-grey; the last remainders of pink on its lores visible in the close-up view above indicate that this is a young bird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2007]

Spotted Bowerbird issuing its hissing call (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Jan Eggs: 1 - 2 Incubation period: 21 - 22 days Fledging age: ca. 21 days

Nest construction, incubation and care for the chicks is entirely the task of the female. The male is too busy with his bower and his attempts to attract as many females as possible to assist... Females keep their nests well away (at least 50 m) from bowers.


"bungobittah", "malunna" = Nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Twigs Height above ground: 2 - 15 m

Nest of a female Spotted Bowerbird in the early stages of construction; this nest was later abandoned
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2007]


"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 38 x 28 mm Colour: Creamy, structured with brown streaks all over Shape: Tapered oval


Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary/roaming Elementary unit: Solitary

Male birds are sedentary, females are roaming.

While some other birds splash themselves wet when bathing, Spotted Bowerbirds fully immerse themselves in water.

Frontal view of a Spotted Bowerbird just out of the bath
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2006]

We have noticed that, while normally they always skip, male Spotted Bowerbirds - when trying to impress a female and thereby craning their neck while displaying their nuchal crest - can, and do, in fact walk. We have not seen any Spotted Bowerbird walking on alternating feet in any other circumstances yet.

Spotted Bowerbird lifting one of its wings, in a manner observed by us for various types of doves and pigeons
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2013]


Male Spotted Bowerbirds try to attract as many females to their territory, and thus their bower, as they can. It appears that male Spotted Bowerbirds hone their building skills based on experience (see "additional information" link below).

Bower with trinkets
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2007]

Spotted Bowerbird inspecting a trinket near the bower; it is clear from the precision and repeatability of the arrangements that the bird has a very accurate sense of symmetry and order
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2007]

Here a male Spotted Bowerbird carrying a new piece of decoration (the seed of a black pine) to its bower
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

Additional information

Click here to visit a separate page describing the evolution of a Spotted Bowerbird's bowers over the course of years.

Food, Diet

Spotted Bowerbirds around our place have shown a taste for a varied diet - we have seen them stealing our mulberries, taking nectar from bottlebrush flowers, eating seeds of Kurrajong trees and cracking seeds of the White Cedar trees on the property. Below a view of another favourite type of food, the fruit of a Californian Peppertree.

Fruit of a Californian Peppertree; the red ones are ripe - we have seen Spotted Bowerbirds take these; since they did not appear in the bower as decoration, the birds will probably have eaten them

Here a Spotted Bowerbird has snapped off part of a mulberry
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

Another surprise came when we observed two birds "trim" our parsley plant, which finally explained why it seemed to never grow in size... Later, this turned out not to be so surprising (see below).

What have we here, in this boring buffalo grass lawn?
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

Let's give it a try...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

Indeed, fresh clover!
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

This Spotted Bowerbird is feeding on the flower of a plant similar to dandelion
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Spotted Bowerbird taking an interest in psyllids
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2012]

Spotted Bowerbird feeding on nectar
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]


For this species we have recorded the following call/s. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

spotbow_20141017_6.mp3 (NW NSW) Contact call? (male) MD
spotbow_20141017_9.mp3 (NW NSW) Antics at bower (male) MD
spotbow_20140108.mp3 (NW NSW) Antics near bower (male) MD
spotbow_20140310.mp3 (NW NSW) Warning call (human) MD
spotbow_20140108_2.mp3 (NW NSW) Mimicry (fox) MD
spotbow_20141017_8.mp3 (NW NSW) ? at the bower (male) MD

We have also recorded the wing beat of a Spotted Bowerbird.

spotbow_20141017_3.mp3 (NW NSW) Departure MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.