The mature male bird is a golden-olive brown colour, with golden yellow underparts, crown and nape and an unusual feather structure that refracts light to produce pure white highlights on the plumage. The female is olive-brown with ash-grey below.
It is the world’s smallest bowerbird, but it is able to build the largest of all bowers. The male golden bowerbird constructs a maypole-type structure to attract females which may as high as 3 m. Rival males may steal higher valued or unusual decorations from each others’ bowers. Females are particularly discriminative – many will only select the male with the most attractive bower. The golden bowerbird eats fruit most of the time, but also beetles and cicadas.