Their beauty is incomparable to other creatures, that’s why people call them the birds of paradise. The birds of paradise are members of Paradisaeidae family. They can be found in eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and eastern Australia.
They are famous of their magnificent plumes and their artistic mating dance. Mainly, they live in a dense rainforest in the specified area and rare to be found in areas where humans live nearby. Thus, it is quite a rare occurrence to meet them face to face.
The remote, even sometimes inaccessible, habitat also gives them a certain mystique to the scientists and photographer that adds up with their awesome display. People come for the view often only lucky enough to hear their chirps and not more of it.
The Rainbow In Their Feathers
The birds of paradise are well known for their striking beauty, especially the male ones. The male birds are blessed with high contrast adornments and knowledge of how to display them in the most attractive way. From 42 species in 15 genera of the family, each has its own unique characteristic in its plumes.
Ed Scholes and Tim Laman, an evolutionary biologist and a wildlife photographer, once spend 8 years of their lives carrying 18 expeditions exploring the wilderness of Papua New Guinea in order to document the 39 species of birds of paradise.
“At times I still find it hard to believe creatures so bizarre and beautiful have evolved at all. They are one of the great wonders of the natural world.”
Their search for beauty finally out comes a catalogue of photographs, video, and audio which you can find on the internet at the Birds of Paradise Project.
The Infamous Mating Dance
Most species of this bird have unique and elaborate mating rituals. The reason why the male birds perform energetic and attractive mating dance is because of the condition of their habitat.
In their habitat, there are hardly any predator who feed on the birds of paradise and it saves them a lot of energy for doing their chores. In addition, the wet and dense rainforest provide high nutrition and high energy fruits all year round for the bird.
The female ones get the task of breeding and nurturing their chicks. That’s not a difficult task to do alone because of the supportive environment in the rainforest, and that’s why most of the species females do it by themselves without the support of the male ones.
It leaves the males only one task, which is to attract the females to mate. In that sense, the nutrition and energy they consume are spend on growing attractive plumage and performing the mating dance rituals. Both are important factors for the birds to get the attention of the females.
The Wilson’s bird of paradise is one of the most famous ones with its beautiful mating ritual. Dressed in a cape of vermillion with turquoise skull cap, he attracts the female by performing a vivid and complex dance.
The female one of this species is less colorful than the male, but he always thinks she deserves the attraction. The female birds usually watch the dance from above while scoring the dance like talent show we watch on tv, before she decides can he mate with her or not.
“We look at a male bird of paradise, and we realise he’s astonishingly beautiful, and marvel at his feathers, but really the only thing that matters is what the females are seeing,” explain Ed Scholes.
Don’t Let The Beauty Fades
Although they are famous of their hiding skill from human, but that doesn’t mean that they are completely safe from human threads. Deforestation and illegal hunting are the main (if not the only) threads of their species.
The losing of habitat means less place to live and less food to eat for them. Thus, sometimes they come to areas where their exposure to human are higher. You can guess what happen next when human see beautiful birds coming nearby, they catch them and sell it as pet.
Not only wanted alive, people are also known to hunt them for the beauty of the plumes. There is no exact record of since when people start to hunt the birds of paradise for the plumes. But some notes stated that the hunting to provide plumes for the millinery trade was extensive in the late 19s and early 20s century.
That activity is announced illegal since birds of paradise are considered as endangered animals. Today this bird is legally protected by the law and illegal hunting is harshly punished. However, the demand of black market is still high and that’s why people keep on hunting them for pet or their plumes nowadays.
The only hunting allowed for this bird is for ceremonial needs of local tribal population, in a sustainable level. Local tribes of New Guinea and Papua indeed often use it for decorations in their dress or in rituals because they believe that the birds have magical influence, especially the greater bird of paradise (Paradisaea apoda).
A heart touching fact about the frequent hunting of this species in the past is that in more modern days the male species tend to start mating opportunistically. Some male birds are even start to mate before they grow their ornamental plumage.
It is believed that the reason is because the birds start to adapt to the fact that they have to maintain their population. Thus, although they are under the terror of being hunted down, they are trying to survive in this world.
Even those birds from paradise still want to color the earth, but our greed has threatened them. How can we humans be so selfish? Why don’t we let them stay here a little longer and color this world with its beauty?