Vogelkop Bowerbird

Burung pintar (Amblyornis inornata) di Pegunungan Arfak Manokwari
Male Vogelkop Bowerbird stood in front of his bower
Vogelkop Bowerbird is a species of bird that lives in higher elevation forest of bird's head region in West Papua. The bird is called burung pintar (meaning literally smart bird) by local people. I have seen the bowerbird since 2010 when I guide tourists on birding tours to Arfak mountains.
Vogelkop Bowerbird builds his bower using hundreds of wooden twigs that he arranges to form a cone-shaped structure. He builds the bower around a sapling. It functions as the main support for the twigs. At the frontyard of the cone-shaped structure, the vogelkop bowerbird collects bright color or glowing articles such as yellow-orange Rhododendron flowers, seeds of New Guinea Oak tree, dark glossy beetle wings, red berries, and orange lichen. Most of the materials were taken from nature. Unfortunately, in recent years he has added bottlecaps and mineral water plastic cups into his collections which he finds in nearby road and village.
Vogelkop bowerbird decorates is bower with seeds, flowers, and colorful articles which he finds in nature and nearby road or village
Vogelkop Bowerbird
In the mornings and in the evenings, Vogelkop Bowerbird will land on his bower to clean or to tweak it so that it will look more beautiful and attractive. While doing his artistic works, he will make various kinds of sounds mimicking the barkings of dogs, the singing of birds or the roaring noisy sounds of chainsaw machine. 
If a female bowerbird is impressed with his artwork and melodic calls, she will land on the bower and give him the green-light for mating. 
The unique bower design and the daily habit of bowerbird attract hundreds of tourists from around the world to see them. Vogelkop Bowerbird can be watched in Arfak range and Tambrauw mountains. In Arfak range, villagers build birding huts some 5 to 7 meters from the bowerbird for tourists to sit in and watch the birds. In addition to Vogelkop Bowerbird, visitors can also watch other tropical birds such as Western Parotia, Magnificent Bird of Paradise, Black Sicklebill, Long-tailed Paradigalla, and Superb Bird of Paradise. 
Although the population of Vogelkop Bowerbird is still high, its habitat is shrinking rapidly due to the conversion of rainforest into farmland, village housings, and roads.
A Roman Catholic Church, the Cathedral of Christ the King (locally called Gereja Katolik Kristus Raja) in Sorong city was designed based on the structure of Vogelkop Bowerbird. I do not know the architect who designed the building but it was really a nice artwork. Visitors who want to see the building can go to Kampung Baru area in Sorong city. Last week, I guided an American tourist, Paige Harvey to see the building.
Building design that is inspired by the bower of Vogelkop Bowerbird
Roman Catholic Church - Cathedral Christ the King in Kampung Baru area of Sorong city
As a matter of fact the Vogelkop region of West Papua is a huge land mass that is the natural habitat of hundreds of species of beautiful and unique birds. Birding visitors need at least 1 to 2 weeks to cover the vast region. In lower montane forest and lowland areas, a lot of species of birds can also be watched including the King Bird of Paradise, Magnificent Riflebird, Lesser Bird of Paradise, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Beautiful Fruit Dove, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Rainbow Lorikeet, and etc.
Things to bring
Birdwatching visitors who plan to go to West Papua need to prepare a few things that they will need during their birding trip such as:
  • Clothing that is suitable for tropical region (t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, jeans, hat, raincoat or rain poncho)
  • Waterproof watch or alarm clock to help birdwatchers organize their wake-up and birding time
  • Binoculars - at least the waterproof 10× 42 mm or 12× 50 mm roof prism. The porro design is ok too.
  • Camera with telephoto lens such as Nikon P1000, or Sony DSC H400, or Canon D-SLR cameras with 150-600 mm lens.
  • Field guide book: Birds of New Guinea
  • Laser pointer
  • Refillable water bottle and snacks. Biscuits and cereal are good food supplements which visitors need during their hiking, birding and wildlife tour.
Most of the birding sites in West Papua do not have road access. Cars can transport tourists from cities to villages. After that birding activities can be done along the roads or footpaths in the forest. Tourists who plan to visit Vogelkop region of West Papua need to do regular physical exercises as preparations before visiting the region. When your birding adventure to West Papua is well prepared, your trip to Indonesia will be pleasant and fun. - written by Charles Roring

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