Paradise not Lost

One of the places that I would love to travel to for the sights and wildlife is New Zealand. I’m especially interested in canoeing down the river with the two giant king statues shown in The Lord of the Rings. Another place I would enjoy visiting is the beautiful island region of Papua New Guinea. Among the tropical rainforests of Papua New Guinea, there still exists a hint of paradise, with colorful birds that engage in strange behaviors. My last blog examined a few of the birds-of-paradise endemic to this region. Now I’m back for more dances with extravagant birds!

First up on today’s list is the Magnificent Riflebird. Male riflebirds have irridescent blue neck feathers that hang like a bib across the breast. When trying to woo a female, the male will use sweet-sounding calls to bring a female in to investigate. Then the male fans his wings out and performs a head dance to the rhythm of sounds produce by his wings! Check out this interaction in the cool video clip below.

Next up, is the Superb Bird-of-Paradise, which employs a different dancing strategy. Superb males look somewhat similar to riflebirds, with their dark feathers and brilliant blue bibs. Like many other birds-of-paradise, Superb males are polygamous and will mate with multiple females if possible. This species primarily feeds on insects and fruit. Females will often lay just 1 or 2 eggs per clutch in nests composed of plant material. During courtship, the male will spread out his feathers in the shape of a fan and hope around on a tree branch while the female inspects him. Bright blue spots on the body appear like large eyes during this display. 

Superb bird-of-paradise  male displaying in rainforest canopy

I need to find a shiny blue bib for my next date

Another fancy bird-of-paradise is the King-of-Saxony. The males of this species have long striped plumes that stream from their heads and are used in visual displays. A male will make strange mechanical-sounding noises while bouncing on branches and waving their plumes. Apparently females find this very attractive. Territorial males will also sing to ward off potential intruders. King-of-Saxony Birds-of-Paradise (It’s very exhausting to use all those hyphens!) will feast on insects and berries. They especially enjoy tropical punch juice and sometimes fall off their perch if they drink too much.

The final bird-of-paradise I want to highlight is the Carola’s Parotia. The males of this species might be considered among the top dancers in the bird world. Courtship displays involve the use of long feathers which form a sort of skirt that makes the parotia appear to be a ballet dancer. The male begins by clearing out the dance (dirt) floor and shaking his feathers to attract females. Once the females arrive, the male spreads out his tutu and gracefully glides, hops, and waggles across the rainforest floor while showing off his shiny bib and long head plumes. Check out the funny video below.

I always enjoy watching videos of birds-of-paradise engaging in courtship displays. The things men will do to attract a lady . . . anyway, These beautiful birds and their cool habitats show that there are still reminders of paradise in our world. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put on my coat of many colors and practice my waggle-glide. Maybe I’ll even create some long plumes for my head.




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