Outback lair littered with bones shocks walker: 'Vanquished his enemies'

Rodney walked for two hours into the hills surrounding the remote Western Australian town.

While most Aussies know stories of bowerbirds stealing pegs, milk bottle tops and other blue items to attract a mate, further north they do things differently.

Unlike the satin bowerbird that is found across the east of the country, the great bowerbird likes to collect white-coloured decorations. A photo snapped by adventurer Rodney Fischer in Western Australia’s remote Kimberley shows a 40cm high bower surrounded by animal bones spilling out a metre in each direction.

“It was about 20 metres up the side of a cliff above a waterhole. I suppose it attracts a lot of wallabies and other animals to come and get a drink, and dingoes probably prey on them. That’d be how the bowerbird gets its bones,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

Left: A great bowerbird bower with bones in front of it. Right: A map showing Wyndam.
The great bowerbird's bower was photographed 30 minutes drive from Wyndam in the Kimberley. Source: Rodney Fischer/Google Maps

What was shocking about the bowerbird find?

Finding a bower surrounded by bones would be enough to shock many hikers, and after Rodney shared the image to social media thousands reacted.

“Goth — look at that boneyard!” one person wrote. “He’s vanquished all his enemies,” someone else joked.

But it wasn’t the bones that surprised Rodney, it was actually what he didn’t find that led him to take the photo.

“I’ve probably only found two or three bowers over the years that are litter free like this one,” the veteran explorer said. “Most of my life I’ve been out bushwalking and it’s very rare to find one without plastic. You’ll usually find a lot of broken glass, lids off drink bottles, ring-pulls off aluminium cans, and just little bits of plastic.

“When I was a kid I found a $10 note in one. I was only young, so I took it, but thinking now I probably should have just left it there.”

Fast bowerbird facts

  • Great bowerbirds have large magenta crests on their head.

  • Bowers are not nests. They are built by males to attract females.

  • They often contain rocks, seeds, bones, shells and other colourful items.

  • Great bowerbirds often use green, white, clear and red objects.

Reads 'What on Earth? Our rapid growth in plastic use means there are an estimated 171 trillion pieces in the ocean.' with a collage of plastic floating in water and a fish made out of rubbish.
Our rapid growth in plastic use means there are an estimated 171 trillion pieces in the ocean.

Nests also riddled with rubbish

It’s not just bowers that have become contaminated with plastic. Birds nests are also increasingly becoming contaminated with household waste.

A satin bowerbird in its nest surrounded in plastic (left) and a great bowerbird (right) with a purple head crest.
A satin bowerbird (left) and a great bowerbird (right). Source: Getty

Fishing line and synthetic fluff are both common finds. While our first reaction might be to marvel at the birds’ resourcefulness, these contaminants in nests have long been harmful.

Back in 2021, animal rescue group WIRES was warning they could turn nests into “death traps”. Volunteer Inga Tiere told Yahoo, “I’ve seen a number of baby birds caught in the nest.”

BirdLife Australia has also raised concerns, “Birds can be very eclectic when it comes to nesting material. If you want a signpost to how we’re trashing the planet, look at what birds are putting in their nests,” spokesperson Sean Dooley said.

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