Song and Dance: The Majestic Birds of Paradise

Paradise must be a place suffused with sublime colors if the plumage of “birds of paradise” are any indications. No other bird family is as beautiful or rich in the diversity of plumage and courtship behaviour as the flamboyant birds of paradise. Though most of these birds are quite small (many are the size of a crow), certain species sport tails of up to a meter in length. Some have feathers as dainty as lace, while others shimmer with a metallic golden sheen. Their physical beauty is matched by their elaborate courtship rituals where males flaunt their energetic dance moves to win female admirers. When a dance begins, the tree branch or forest floor becomes a stage for pyrotechnic display which includes the males posturing proudly, parachuting, hanging from the branch or alternately freezing and spinning.

There are 40 known species of these heavenly birds, of which the Wilson’s Bird of Paradise (pictured) is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. With colors like a child’s paint box and a song like nothing on earth, Diphyllodes respublica, its scientific name, is quite clearly a Godsend among birds.

Wilson’s Bird of Paradise, Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua (Indonesia) New Guinea.

Listen: sound recording of a male Wilson’s calling from the canopy.

Video: Watch the amazing courtship displays of various species of birds of paradise in the jungles of New Guinea (narrator: Sir David Attenborough)

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