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  1. 68 Photo by David Cook

Tooth-billed Bowerbird or Tooth-billed Catbird

Scenopoetes dentirostris

Appearance

  • Colour: olive-brown on top and white to pale fawn with brown streaks underneath. It has pale buff cheeks, a pale brown ring around its eye, and a stout black beak with serrations near the tip.
  • Size: 29 – 30 cm. 

Behaviour

  • Call: the male sings with his mouth wide open when above his “display court” (breeding area). His call is loud and varied, including screeches, babbling and a repeated “chuck” call (his advertisement songs to females). He is also able to accurately mimic the songs of many other birds and animals, and has a harsh flight-alarm call.
  • Diet: mainly fruit, leaves, stems and flower buds, but sometimes also insects and their larvae.
  • Movement: it generally does not travel far from its breeding site.
  • Breeding: an adult male clears a small area of the rainforest floor, usually circular or oval, known as a “display court” or “stage”. He then places green leaves, with their pale side facing upwards, in the cleared area. He sings from above his display court to attract a female, and when one arrives he flies down and performs a dance, hopping and lunging around his display court with wings spread wide, neck feathers erect and mouth open. If the female is impressed, they will mate. The female then builds a nest, where she lays two or three creamy-brown eggs. She incubates the eggs and feeds the young birds once they have hatched. 

What to Observe

  • Courting/mating
  • Calling
  • Feeding
  • Nesting (and, if possible: bird in nest, bird on eggs, bird with chicks, bird feeding begging chicks). 

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect birds to start breeding and singing earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.

When To Look

  • From September to March
  • Breeding commonly occurs between September and January

Where To Look

  • In tropical rainforests, typically between 500 m and 900 m in elevation, but sometimes up to 1,200 m and down to 350 m. It is therefore restricted to the Wet Tropics in north-eastern Queensland
  • Look in rainforest clearings where males might have made display courts – listen out for their calls.

Tooth-billed Bowerbird occurrence - ALA

References

Higgins PJ, Peter JM and Cowling SJ (eds) 2006. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 7, Part A. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Pizzey G and Knight F 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

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  1. Did You Know?

    It is one of eight species of bowerbird that are only found in Australia.

    Its name refers to the white inside of its lower jaw, which can be seen when the male sings.

    The “display court” is carefully maintained by the male for the duration of the breeding season. It is kept free of everything except fresh green leaf decorations which he puts there. For this reason, males are nicknamed “stagemakers”.