The bird of paradise is closely related
to the bowerbird and crow and belongs to the family Paradisaeidae.
There are 43 species, 35 of which are confined to New Guinea.
There are 3 species in the Moluccas and several species of the
less spectacular riflebirds in eastern Australia. Spaniards in
the 16th century coined the name bird of paradise when magnificent
bird skins were brought to Europe aboard Magellan's ship, Victoria.
These are medium-sized birds, perhaps crow-sized,
and are remarkably beautiful. They have strong feet adapted for
perching, and bills of various shapes. The trailing plumes, short
velvet-like feathers and beautiful collars are used by the male
in their courtship dance. The females, in comparison, are very
plain. The males have established territories where they dance
for the females. The dances are as remarkable as the birds. Perched
on a branch, the birds sway and crouch or stand erect, tilt forward
and backward, some even hang upside down. Every species has its
own type of dance.
Birds of paradise live in forests and frequent
the high treetops or lower scrub. The open nest is built in tree
branches and sometimes in holes. The female handles nest-building,
incubation of the one or two eggs that are orange streaked with
brown, and raising the young. The males are polygamous. Their
diet consists of insects, worms, small vertebrates and also fruits
and seeds. The voice is quite plain. The best known and most
beautiful are the members of the genus Paradisea. The Great Bird-of-Paradise,
Paradisea apoda, of Aru is a rust reddish brown on the back,
the head is yellow, the throat is emerald-green. It has long
tufts of golden-orange feathers on the sides. The two elongated
central tail feathers are very thin. When courting it spreads
its wings and hangs upside down.
Iridescent breast shield, golden whiskers,
and six wirelike crown plumes mark a Carola's parotia, a rarely
seen bird of paradise.
Count Raggi's bird of paradise (Paradisaea
raggiana) is found in the rain forests of Papua New Guinea, is
known for its wild and frenzied dances done to court the drab
females. Its coloration is firey red, yellow head and green around
the bill and a dark throat.