What is a Bird of Paradise?

A bird of paradise in Papua New Guinea.
A bird of paradise in Papua New Guinea.

No other bird species can rival the beauty and behavior of the bird of paradise. Bird of paradise belongs to the family Paradisaeidae popular for the beautiful array of feathers which are common in male birds. Birds of paradise are broadly classified into 50 different species, some of which cannot be found easily and are confined to specific habitats and to certain places. Some of the birds are also threatened by human activities such as hunting and habitat destruction. The birds of paradise remained unpopular until 1966 when an incredible footage of birds taken from Papua New Guinea by David Attenborough amazed the world.

Physical Description Of The Birds Of Paradise

The birds of paradise are some of the most attractive in the world. The male has brightly colored feathers, ranging from red to green with others having sheds of yellow. The variation in plumage between the sexes is linked to the breeding. The young males have female-like plumage and may obtain the full adult plumage after about seven years. The birds range in size with the smallest, the king bird-of-paradise weighing up to 50 grams and measuring 5.9 inches. The largest bird, curl-crested manucode, measures 17 inches and weighs 430 grams. Most male species have longer and larger tails than the female. The wings are mostly round, and in some species, the wings are structurally modified. Sicklebills and riflebirds species have long and decurved bills while other species like Astrapias have small and slim bills. Bills also vary between sexes with the females having larger bills compared to the males.

Diet Of The Birds Of Paradise

The birds of paradise feed on mainly fruits and arthropods, though they may also feed on nectar and small invertebrates. The ratio of the two main food varieties varies by species, with some feeding on more fruits and fewer arthropods and vice verse. The food preference affects other aspects of the behavior of the species including their habitat. The fruit eaters range widely and may join other species of fruit eaters on a fruiting tree but will not associate or stay with them for long. They feed on the fruit while perched and use their feet to hold and manipulate their food. Insect eaters mainly use their bills to tear apart dead wood to get insects.

Habitat And Range Of The Birds Of Paradise

The island of New Guinea is the center of the birds of paradise diversity. 13 of the 15 genera are found on the Island. The other two genera are endemic to the Maluku Island. The riflebirds are mainly found in the coastal forest of Eastern Australia. Some species are also found in Queensland. Most of the birds of paradise inhabit the tropical forests such as the rainforest and swamps. Some species have also been recorded in the coastal mangrove areas. Over 30 species occupy the mid-montane habitat at an altitudinal band of 1000-2000 meters.

Breeding Habits Of The Birds Of Paradise

The birds of paradise are mainly solitary and only come together to mate. The male bird uses its bright feathers and performs a perfect dance routine to attract the female. The female bird lays eggs in a nest made of soft material such as leaves. The number of eggs varies with species with larger species producing just one egg while the smaller ones produce clutches of 2-3 eggs. Eggs take about 16 to 22 days to hatch and the young leave the nest at about 30 days of age.


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