Home » Bowerbird?

Bowerbird?

Some of our customers have asked, "Why did you choose the name Bowerbird & Company?"

Well, maybe a bit of history will help . . .

My father owned and operated an immense junkyard for over 45 years in San Diego, California. His inventory was extensive and covered nearly 8 acres. Customers were always picking through his unique merchandise and admiring his stash of stuff and wondering how he managed to collect so many odd and unusual things.

Among his list of shoppers, there were always the artist types and creative folks that spent many hours browsing around in search of that rare object that would make their window display stand out or complete their work of art. He even had an art class visit every year for a few days, setting up their easels to paint the landscape of miscellaneous junk artifacts.

At one point I found myself in college, working summers at the junkyard, and trying to figure out what I wanted my major to be. I had always dabbled in art, first photography, then painting and collage work, but as I wandered around the property one summer, getting inspired being around all the discarded merchandise that my father was trying to recycle, I realized I just had to do something with all those wonderfully rare items he had been saving!

After I changed my major to art and began working closely with faculty, I was accepted into the honors art program and given my own studio. This meant that I had ample space to spread out and I made many trips down south to search through all my dads salvage in hopes of finding unique items to add to my studio space. I became an assemblage artist, collector of odd junk, and I had a number of shows, exhibiting my scrap sculptures and creative castoffs.

After so many years in business, my fathers yard was permanently closed due to city progress and development. Unfortunately, his inventory was hauled to the dump. As a true recycler, this was especially difficult for my dad, since he knew someone couldve used just about every little thing he had saved all those years, had they been given the opportunity.

Art 1Art 2

At about the same time, I was getting hooked on birds! I joined my local Audubon chapter, helped with a Christmas Bird Count, and began volunteering my time at a local park preserve. I assisted with beach cleanups, helped out with native plant counts, worked at the parks visitors center and gift shop, and gave time to their successful nest box program collecting data on birds. Birding gave me a whole new outlet. I made some good friends and joined in on some incredible birdwatching trips. Getting outdoors and volunteering was so rewarding, I decided I needed to create a company that could give something back to the birds full time.

So, as I settled down and fished around for a name for the little eco-friendly bath and body business I was starting, I decided to find a bird that represented me, and our companys values and ethics, and use that bird as a mascot for the entire business. I think we all do that from time to time: Find an animal or creature on this earth to identify with that represents our true nature. So, after being introduced to the incredible Bowerbird and researching its habits and creative talents, I knew this avian artist was a bird I could identified with and a perfect symbol to model our companys environmental outlook after.

The Bowerbird can only be found in Australia and Papua New Guinea. There are 17 different types of Bowerbirds in the Ptilonorhynchidae family. Just recently an expedition team of researchers and scientists rediscovered the lost Golden-fronted Bowerbird in the isolated forests of western New Guinea that ornithologists had thought extinct since the 1890s. That was exciting news!

Bowerbird males are incredible assemblage artists and natural recyclers. Full of romantic notions, these Casanovas kick it into high gear around breeding time, preparing a decorative staging area with hundreds of found objects and choreograph a special courtship dance to woo the female Bowerbird. Once she arrives to the mating grounds to inspect the elaborate bower and have a look at her potential beau, the male Bowerbird struts his stuff at the entrance and tries to entice her into the cozy art studio (a.k.a. palace of love) he has constructed. He will dance about, sing, sometimes flap his wings, and throw out loud calls and skilled vocalizations to impress her.

Bowerbird
Regent Bowerbird, Photo by Dan Blunt: www.gondwanaguides.com.au — Used by Permission

Bowerbird males spend about 9-10 months of continuous work constructing, modifying, adding to, and rearranging their bowers to improve on their creations and their chances with the females during courtship. Male Bowerbirds can spend hours upon hours just sorting and organizing their vast array of collected treasures. Traditionally, there are 3 different types of bowers: Maypoles, Avenues, and Mats. These bowers are constructed on the forest floor of twigs, leaves, and moss. Some have pathways with carefully maintained moss lawns or courtyards with colorfully displayed objects lining the entrance. Others are painted with sprayed berry juice and charcoal on the inside walls (similar to a Jackson Pollock painting!). Sometimes they will mix two colors together like blue and green fruit juice with some saliva and then use a leaf, twig, or a piece of bark as a paintbrush, holding it in their beak to get the color to spread out evenly (One of the rare instances found where a bird actually uses a tool). Still, some Bowerbirds will clear a small area of space, collect up to 180 leaves, then lay them out in rows, turning them all over to reveal the pale back surface of the leaf in an organized fashion.

D. Maasen
Photo by D. Maasen: www.webshots.com, Search: Mawaho — Used by Permission

Each Bowerbird builds a uniquely shaped bower and has an individualistic decorating style. They are in constant competition with one another for the female birds attention and are very territorial. Rival birds will pilfer higher valued ornaments that are prized and harder to find. If they see something they cant live without, they will raid their neighbors bower so they can redecorate their place with something new and improved. Some even go as far as trashing a fellow birds beautifully arranged and organized bower out of jealousy! There are bower sites that have been used by a succession of males for many generations, with each new Bowerbird remodeling the core structure to fit their own tastes and artistic flare. Bower structures can last up to about 9 years with constant attention.

Male Bowerbirds are collectors, finding inanimate objects with which to garnish their elaborate bowers. Some of the items they might gather are shells, pebbles, flowers, bones, leaf litter, feathers, lichens, fruits, insects, spider webs, wasp nests, snakeskins, snail shells, seedpods, and twigs. When close to human habitat, the Bowerbird might happen to pick up spoons, coins, or aluminum foil, clothes pegs, straws, paper, rubber, or clothing scraps. Some male Bowerbirds even have a preference in color. The Satin Bowerbird, which ironically has blue eyes, collects anything that is the color blue. Displayed at his bower are blue string, blue pen tops, blue bags, blue glass, and blue bottle caps. Even a blue toothbrush was found outside a Satin Bowerbirds bower!

D. Fraser
Photo by D. Fraser: www.bencruachan.org — Used by Permission

Scientists have yet to discover if the Bowerbird learns its elaborate artistic behavior from its elders or if its an innate, artistic talent pre-encoded in them at birth. As for my history, I think it was a little influence from my father the collector and his salvage business and my love for the outdoors and volunteer work that gave me a unique opportunity to start a company that provides organic, eco-friendly products with recycled packaging to those who love birding, care about our natural environment, and want to give something back.

Now you know the story!

Fly Right!™

For online resources to discover more about the interesting and exciting world of Bowerbirds you can visit the following weblinks:

www.montereybay.com/creagrus/bowerbirds.html
www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bowerbirds
www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/bowerbird
www.birdwatching-australia.com
www.gullivermedia.com.au/rainf.html