What are birds of paradise

Birds of Paradise - very big theater

Deep in the rainforests of the large island of New Guinea live the "most beautiful and extraordinary feathered inhabitants on earth." This is what the famous British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace wrote when he first observed birds of paradise on his trip to Southeast Asia in the mid-19th century. No animal in the world holds such a fiery courtship dance as the male bird of paradise. It's hard to believe that these dazzling exotic species are related to our crows.

The huge show about females - more is not possible!

Those who do not stand out in the jungle have already lost. And so the males conjure up everything that is in them during courtship: some fan their rich yellow side feathers to form a sun ball, others set up shiny black feathers to dance skirts; still others wear short-feathered cloaks, ruffles or bobbing antennae on their heads or tails. There is also a fire of colors at its finest: hoods, throats, head and chest bands shine red, green, blue and yellow through the foliage. And because all of this is probably not enough to impress females, there is dancing, rocking, jumping, jumping and swinging, whistling and singing - until one finally takes a bite.

In some species, a couple of males dance together on selected courtship areas for the favor of the females who occupy the spectator branches all around. Other species prefer the solo dance to conquer a female.

Only the crows once left the "paradise"

Paradise, bower and crow birds have a common origin - they all lived in today's island world of New Guinea and Australia, according to the well-known biologist Josef H. Reichholf. At that time, however, the islands were still connected to the Australian continent, because the sea level was over 100 meters lower than it is today. Millions of years ago, the common family tree was divided into two main branches: the crows took their own path and conquered the whole world. The birds of paradise and bower birds stayed where they were.

Today around 40 different bird of paradise species are known (some researchers count 39, some also 42 species) - most of them live on New Guinea, the second largest island on earth. The island is divided into two parts: the western part belongs to Indonesia, the eastern part is a separate state: Papua New Guina. The bird of paradise is even its heraldic animal. The remaining species live on the Indonesian Moluccas Islands and in northern Australia.

He dances, she works

After mating, it has done its job - at least for most bird of paradise species. They do not live together as a couple, but the female alone builds a robust nest of leaves, ferns and twigs in the fork of the branch and incubates one or two eggs there. By the way, the females are inconspicuous, which is also perfect camouflage. The boys are only looked after by the mother. Fruits, nuts, insects and - depending on the species - also small reptiles are on the menu of the birds of paradise.

Who is the most beautiful in the rainforest?

It's a matter of taste. Each species is different from the other - in size, color and courtship dance. The smallest is the royal bird of paradise - it is only 16 cm long, but is considered one of the most beautiful and is the most widespread of all.
One of the largest and most impressive is the Raggi bird of paradise, which is also called the bird of the gods. At 33 cm, it is as tall as a crow - but with its orange-red decorative feathers it is a proud 70 cm.

18 expeditions - and the natural wonder was in the box

In 2003, the scientists Edwin Scholes and Tim Laman set out to find all 39 bird of paradise species and record them in sound and images. It took them 8 years and 18 expeditions into the rainforests of New Guinea to achieve this goal. Your photos, videos and sound recordings are unique.

Here's a round-up of the best Bird of Paradise self-portraits:



Decorate with strange feathers

In New Guinea, indigenous peoples have always worshiped the birds of paradise - there men adorn themselves with their feathers.

In Europe it was mainly women who put bird of paradise feathers on hats and clothing. The first - stuffed - specimens brought researchers and circumnavigators to Europe and thus aroused the desire for exotic bird bodies and their feathers. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the animals were hunted mercilessly and shipped to Europe and the USA. Then the animal rights activists sounded the alarm, because some species were almost extinct.

In 1908 the British banned hunting in the parts of New Guinea where they ruled. The Dutch banned them in 1931. Today, the hunt for birds of paradise is completely prohibited - all species are protected by the Washington Convention on Endangered Species, because almost all of them are endangered.

Last updated: May 30, 2019