The Loh Down On Science

You won't believe how male bower birds use paint to woo females

Bachelors have strange habits, but male satin bowerbirds take the cake!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science. 

Meet the Australian satin bowerbird.  In mating season, he builds a teepee out of sticks.  He decorates it with intriguing knickknacks like, oh, shells and bottle caps!  Nice!  The goal?  To lure in the ladies.  Sure!  But get this—he also chews up plants and paints the walls with his own resulting spittle.  Ew!  What's up with that?

Enter biologist Gerald Borgia from the University of Maryland.  He staked out sixty bowers using motion-triggered cameras.  He stealthily removed the paint from half the bowers.  And?

Most females took one look at unpainted walls and never came back!  Ultimately, males with proper décor were about four times more likely to get lucky.  The power behind the paint is unknown.  But something about it says the owner is worth a second look.

Or perhaps nothing is as tempting, to a female satin bowerbird, as both boyfriend improvement and a remodeling project.  How oddly human.

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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