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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 113(4)

Experimental evidence of local variation in the colour preferences of Great Bowerbirds for bower decorations

Naoko Haruyama A, Noriyuki Yamaguchi B, Kazuhiro Eguchi A E and Richard A. Noske C D

A Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka 812-8581, Japan.
B Graduate School of Fisheries and Environmental Studies, Nagasaki University, 1-14 Bunkyo-machi, Nagasaki 852-8521, Japan.
C Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.
D Present address: Environmental Futures School, Griffith University, Nathan, Qld 4111, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: kegucscb@kyushu-u.org

Emu 113(4) 367-373 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU13006
Submitted: 3 April 2012  Accepted: 12 April 2013   Published: 6 August 2013

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Previous observational studies near Darwin, Northern Territory, revealed that males of a population of the western subspecies of the Great Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus nuchalis nuchalis) gathered only green objects as coloured decorations for their bowers. To test whether collection of certain coloured objects by Bowerbirds was caused by the skew of availability of such colours in the environment, we conducted experiments in which glasses of various colours were placed in or near bowers. We supplied shards of coloured glass of five colours (Brown, Yellow-Green, Green, Dark Olive-Green and Dark Blue) and painted glass of six colours (Red, Yellow, Light Green, Deep Green, Light Blue and Blue). Both Green and Deep Green were favoured, whereas other colours were ignored or disfavoured, especially Red and Yellow. Males in our population showed a narrow range of colour preferences even when a wide choice of colours was available, which differs from findings for the eastern subspecies (P. n. orientalis), in which red and purple were favoured. Green objects were placed beside the avenue entrance, probably for ready access when displaying to females in the avenue. We suggest that the green was preferred because it contrasts with the lilac nuchal crest displayed to females during courtship.

Additional keywords: contrast inflating hypothesis, fruit availability, Ptilonorhynchus nuchalis nuchalis, rarity hypothesis, sensory-bias model hypothesis.


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