I am a PhD student in the Behavioural Ecology group. My research centres around the use of multi-modal signals in intraspecific communication
- Behavioural Ecology Group:
- Graduate student
My research will focus on the courtship and mating behaviour of the Tooth-billed Bowerbirds in northern Queensland.
The most famous species of bowerbird, the Satin Bowerbird, is known for its complex courtship. The male Satin Bowerbird builds and maintains an avenue of sticks, decorated with various natural and man-made objects (usually blue or yellow and shiny). This complex structure is his bower and its sole purpose, along with his deep blue plumage and ritualised display behaviour, is to attract a mate.
As well as the Satin Bowerbird, there are 16 other species of bowerbirds and, between them; they vary, not only in their physical appearance and the brightness of their plumage, but also in the form and complexity of their bower and display behaviour. The Tooth-billed Bowerbird has the most simplistic bower, which, in this case, is called a court. The court is a cleared area of ground on which leaves are laid out with the undersides facing upwards. During the breading season, which lasts from approximately September to January, male Tooth-bills spend most of their time perched above their court giving an almost continuous stream of calls and vocal mimicry. Court owners must attend and maintain their court as well as defend it from rival males who sometimes steal leaves. Throughout the breeding season, females visit several males at their courts. When a female visitor arrives, the male owner descends to the forest floor and gives soft, high quality, vocal mimicry, followed by a vigorous visual display. Ultimately, the female chooses from among the potential mates, and the display ends in copulation. The female then builds a nest and raises her young alone.
My research will investigate the mechanisms behind this unique courtship behaviour. Specifically I will look at how each element of male display (court, song, dance and male-male competition) interact and contribute to female choice.