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Perhaps no other bird on the planet has a showier display than the family of birds native to New Guinea and Australia known as the Birds-of-paradise. This diverse family, comprised of 13 colorful genera, are famous for their long plumes and flashy courtship displays. These birds are found in tropical rainforest environments that are densely vegetated and thrumming with the noises of thousands of insects, birds, and frogs. Therefore, these birds require their eye-catching colors, dramatic plumes, and elaborate calls and dances to advertise their availability far and wide to female Birds-of-paradise.

The Greater Bird-of-paradise is the largest member of its genus. This raven-sized bird possesses yellow-and-purple trailing plumes, deep crimson-brown body feathers, and a yellow-and-dark green head. This species is sexually dimorphic, and females are a uniform maroon color and lack the showy plumes of the male. These birds are found in forests of New Guinea and the Aru Islands of Indonesia, and their diet consists of fruit, berries, insects, and seeds.

The strangely-named and even stranger-looking Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise is the only species in its genera. This crow-sized bird is native to lowland forests of New Guinea and Irian Jaya. The male has iridescent black wings and a glossy black breast shield that it can flare up. Its flanks and long tail are goldenrod yellow and end in twelve filamentous feathers that give the bird its name. The sparsely-feathered black head features red eyes and a long, scythe-like bill. The female is a drab brown with a black and cream striped belly. These birds eat spiders, insects, and fruit.

One species of Bird-of-paradise has a courtship display that requires prior preparation. The Six-plumed Bird-of-paradise chooses a small square of forest floor on which to display, and then spends several hours to days removing debris, re-arranging twigs and strands of vegetation, and plucking ill-placed leaves from tree branches. Once satisfied, the starling-sized glossy black bird lifts six antennae-like, filamentous feathers on his head, flares his wings out to encircle his body, and bobs his head back and forth, flashing a blue-and-green iridescent throat patch.

Another species, the Superb Bird-of-paradise, incorporates the snapping sound of his tail feathers into his eclectic display. Once this bird attracts the attention of a passing female, he erects a black cape of feathers on his back and blue-green breast feathers to form a circular collar of feathers around his head. From the front, the bird looks oddly like a feathered satellite dish hopping on thin legs. The male snaps his tail feathers repeatedly against the ground to emit a series of claps, and flashes his feathers towards the female. If she is impressed, the female will mate with the male, then disappear into the forest.

Birds-of-paradise were hunted extensively for their plumes in the mid-1800s, which were sold for high prices in Europe and Asia and adorned women’s hats in Europe and North America. Fortunately, many species have rebounded and are listed as species of least concern in their country of origin.



One Response to “Birds-of-Paradise”

  1. syl Says:

    the photo is absolutely breath taking..

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