AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Birds are gardeners, too.

Christmas Island warbler nest; Richard D. Chandler


Bowerbirds build large and elaborate nests to attract mates. In this process, they decorate the nest with colorful fruit; once the fruit dries up, and the bird no longer needs it, the plant is thrown away, causing the growth of this plant near the nest. These birds accidentally garden plants, this adds to their role in spreading seeds and fertilizing plants. Birds spread seeds by digesting the fruit and then disposing of its seed in a different place. They also pollinate plants while feeding from a flower. Brightly colored flowers attract birds to feed from their nectar; the bird is then covered with pollen from the anthur of the flower’s stamen. When the bird goes to the next plant, the pollen covering their bodies is
placed in the stigma of the flower.

The coloration of plants represents their role in the environmental community. Brightly colored flowers are attractive to birds and
insects. Brightly colored fruit are attractive to animals, including humans, because it makes the consumer think the fruit is ripe. The Bowerbird picks the greenest potato plant to decorate its nest with, because it is the most visually pleasing. This selection causes potato plants that are greener in color to grow around the birds nest, causing the bird to decide what plants grow in certain areas.

Bowerbirds are the only animals, other than humans, to use fruit for a use other then eating. This selection and use makes the birds “accidental genetic engineers” and cultivators of potato bushes near their nest.

It is the natural instinct of certain birds to eat fruit and drink nectar. It is also the natural instinct of Bowerbirds to create decorative
nests to mate and pass on their genes. The natural instincts of birds in general cause certain plants to be fertilized and reproduce. The relationship
between birds and flowers revolves in a cycle that is the foundation of nature.

Photo: Christmas Island warbler nest, Christmas Island, March 1967.

Richard D. Chandler, The Smithsonian Institution

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  1. evolucious

    Nice post! Bowerbirds aren’t the only intelligent animals with courtship displays, but they seem to be one of the most studied. This BBC feature on wildlife has cool photos, videos, and descriptions of even more animal courtship rituals:

  2. sweetasglucose

    WOW! Bowerbirds sound like intelligent creatures. Many types of birds are very intelligent. It is believed that birds as a class, are more intelligent than reptiles and some mammals. Think about the parrot, which can repeat humans. The African Grey Parrot can form sentences and understand what some words actually mean. Birds are smart creatures. The Bowerbird is another example of one.

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