10 Amazingly Colourful Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise on Earth
Thrilled by the stunning beauty of a place, people often call it 'heaven on earth'. Such a feeling is experienced in the tropical rain forests of Papua New Guinea, parts of Indonesia and Eastern Australia which are blessed with unique and spectacular birds known as birds-of-paradise. In striking contrast to their female counterparts, these birds are bewitching by virtue of their amazingly colourful plumage.
The misconception that these visitors from paradise are kept aloft by their plumage and they never touch earth till their death, makes this an interesting subject of study. With forty one species in this family of birds, their elongated feathers extending from different parts of the body make them unique and distinct from each other.
Stay with me to have a glimpse of these brightly coloured and attractive birds.
#1. Wilson's Bird of Paradise
Wilson's bird, one of the most spectacular birds-of-paradise is endemic to Indonesia, primarily in the lowland rain-forests and hill forests of around 300 meters in the West Papuan islands of Waigeo and Batanta. This small bird is known for peculiar colours. The male is mainly red and black. It has yellow cape and a turquoise crown which is only a patch of bare skin with double cross blackish pattern on it. It has green breast, rich blue feet and two curved violet feathers. The female is entirely different which is brownish with bare blue crown.
The male Wilson's birds-of-paradise are known for their peculiar appearance and displaying splendor of their colours during courtship. They eat fruits and small insects and have been placed in the near-threatened category due to habitat loss.
#2. King Bird of Paradise
King bird-of-paradise, a passerine, is the smallest and most widely distributed in the lowland forests of New Guinea and nearby islands. Approximately 16 cms in length, it is also reconised by the most vivid colours among birds-of-paradise. The combination of crimson and white with bright blue feet makes it a king. Its shoulders have green-tipped fan-like plumes. Another distinguishing feature is its two elongated tail wires, the tips of which are beautifully decorated with emerald green disk feathers.
As usual with these birds the females are unadorned and are brown birds with barring below. They eat fruits and arthropods. They are widely spread in New Guinea and classified as Least Concern in the Conservation Status.
#3. Raggiana Bird of Paradise
Also called kumul, Raggiana Bird-of Paradise is widely distributed in southern and northeastern New Guinea and is a national bird of Papua New Guinea. It is popular because of its spectacular coloured feathers which are collected and worn during local festivals and ceremonies. It is about 13 inches long, is maroon brown with greyish blue bill. Males have a yellow crown and dark emerald-green throat. As usual with many such birds, the females are relatively dull with maroonish-brown colour and lacking long tail feathers.
It eats fruit and arthropods and is quite famous for shaking its feathers, clapping wings and moving head for its partner during courtship displays. It falls in the category of least concern in conservation status.
#4. Red Bird of Paradise
Red Bird-of-Paradise presents unusual appearance because of glossy red feathers. Endemic in Indonesia, this beautiful bird is found in lowland forests and hill forests up to 600 meters elevation in Waigeo, Batanta and Gemien islands of West Papua. Looking multi-coloured, male is brown and yellow, iris is dark brown, legs are grey, bill is yellow, face is emerald green and plumes are ornamental red. Female is smaller in size, without ornamental red plumes and have dark brown face.
They eat fruit, berries and arthropods. During the breeding season the males attract females by performing elaborate courtship displays.
5. Ribbon-tailed astrapia
Known for their three feet long white tail, Ribbon-tailed astrapia are found in restricted ranges of the sub-alpine forests in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea and are near threatened. With velvet black body, the males have olive green and bronze plumage. Males have long ribbon like tails which don't help them to survive but could be problematic if entangled during flight. They, however, help them to attract female astrapia. Females are brown in colour and lack long tail feathers.
They use their bill to dig out insects from trees and ground. They love to eat fruit.
#6. Greater Bird of Paradise
It is interesting to know how this species acquired the name. The trades skins taken to Europe initially were without legs (or feet), so Latin word apoda. It is one of the largest species and is distributed in lowland and hill forests in southwest New Guinea and Aru islands of Indonesia. Male has yellow crown, head and nape with brown back. The beautiful flank plumes are yellow at the base but turn white and also have maroon streaks. The plumage of female is unbarred maroon. In both sexes bills are blue and the iris yellow.
They love to eat fruit, insects and seeds. They are not threatened birds.
#7. Victoria's Riflebird
Victoria's Riflebird is very small and endemic to wet tropics Atherton Tableland region of northeastern Queensland in Australia. It resides lowland to hill rain-forests and is one of the our birds-of-paradise indigenous to Australia. It is named after Queen Victoria of England, possibly due to resemblance of its plumage with the colour of uniform of riflemen in England.
The males have beautiful jet black plumage with sparkling green head and throat. They are known for very elaborate display of plumage, twisting and swinging of their heads to impress upon females who are red-brown in colour.
They eat small insects, fruit from the tree. They use their long-curved bills for tearing tree bark like woodpeckers.
#8. Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise
Famous for its 12 wire-like filaments emerging from rear of beautiful yellow plumes, this bird of paradise is velvet black. It has a long long black bill and red iris. Feet are pinkish and long-clawed. Again females are different, they are brown-coloured.
Its behaviour during courtship is noteworthy. There is a display of 12 wires and repeated brushing of female's face to sensationalize the partner. This is responded by putting the head in these wires.
A bird of least concern in conservation status, it is distributed throughout New Guinea and Salawati island of Indonesia. It is found in lowland forests and its breeding in captivity is difficult.
#9. Lesser Bird of Paradise
Lesser Bird-of-Paradise is often found in the lowland forests, swamp forests up to 1550 metres above sea level in Northern New Guinea and nearby Misool and Yapen islands. They are medium-sized and smaller than Greater Bird-of-Paradise. Males have dark emerald-green throat with yellow head and back. They have a pair of long tail-wires and have spectacular flank plumes which are yellowish at base but tend to fade towards the end. Females are with dark-brown head and whitish underparts.
Eating mainly fruit and insects, the polygamous males are known for their courtship displays. They perform undulating and floppy flights.
#10. King of Saxony bird-of-paradise
King of Saxony bird-of-paradise is found in the rain forest regions of New Guinea, ranging from Weyland mountains to Kratke in Papua New Guinea. The natives call it 'Kiss-a-ba' linking with the male's loud call. The male has black head, chest and the top of the body but the underbody is buff-yellow. It has long ornamental head plumes which play important role during courtship display. The female is greyish brown.
Fruits, berries and arthropods are the primary diet. The males are known for hissing sound with simultaneous increase in tempo and lessening of volume. In spite of hunting for ornamental plumes, the species is listed as Least Concern in threatened species.