The bowerbirds are confined to the great island of New Guinea and the island continent of Australia, and their immediately adjacent islands. They are medium-sized birds, omnivorous and largely solitary. They are unique in the avian world in that the males build elaborate ‘bowers’: structures of sticks, grasses or other plant stems on or close to the ground for display and courtship, often incorporating objects such as colourful fruits, flowers, feathers, bones, stones, shells, insect skeletons, and numerous other natural (and human-made) objects. The highly sophisticated building, decorating, collecting, arranging, thieving, singing, and courtship posturing and dancing by males is primarily to attract and impress females. As much of it is performed in the absence of females, however, some consider it possible that males may also enjoy such activities for their own sake. The bowers and the birds’ behaviour associated with them have been much studied by behavioural ecologists searching for evolutionary and ecological explanations of behavioural patterns. The authors’ aims include: (a) making the reader aware of the broader significance of bowerbirds to general biological studies and (b) providing references to key literature on theoretical issues. Part I contains general chapters on bowerbird evolution, behaviour, environment, demography, courtship patterns, breeding biology, and sexual selection. Part II follows with 21 species accounts, giving comprehensive information on the birds in their natural state, including distribution maps and sonographs. Complementing the species accounts are superb colour plates by Eustace Barnes, especially commissioned for this volume. The Bowerbirds, like its companions in the series, is an indispensable work of reference for everyone interested in birds.
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