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Birds of Paradise (Paradisaeidae)

Birds of paradise

(Paradisaeidae)

Class Aves

Order Passeriformes

Suborder Passeri (Oscines)

Family Paradisaeidae


Thumbnail description
Small to very large, powerfully footed, highly animated, and vocal crow-like passerines, most of which are sexually dichromatic. Highly colorful and elaborated, adult male plumages of polygynous species are used in spectacular and complex courtship displays.

Size
6.3–43.3 in (16–110 cm); 0.11–1 lb (50–450 g)

Number of genera, species
17 genera; 42 species

Habitat
Lowland to subalpine rainforests and some associated forests and wet woodland communities

Conservation status
Vulnerable: 4 species; Near Threatened: 8 species

Distribution
Mainland New Guinea and offshore islands, the northern Moluccas of Indonesia, and northeastern and central eastern Australia

Evolution and systematics

Birds of paradise belong to parvorder Corvida, which is considered an ancient lineage of Australo-Papuan passerines derived from Gondwanan stock. Scientists traditionally associated them most closely with bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae), but a major dichotomy between the two groups has been widely accepted. Results of several molecular studies place the separation of birds of paradise and other corvines (superfamily Corvoidea) from bowerbirds (superfamily Menuroidea) at 28 million years ago. The current distribution of birds of paradise strongly supports the thesis that the group radiated in New Guinea. All of the generic radiations are either endemic or largely confined to New Guinea.

The family Paradisaeidae comprises 17 genera and 42 species that are divided into two subfamilies: three species of wide-gaped (Cnemophilinae) and 39 species of typical (Paradisaeinae) birds of paradise. The Cnemophilinae consist of two polygynous Cnemophilus and one little known Loboparadisea species. The Pardisaeinae comprises seven species in three genera (Macgregoria, Lycocorax, Manucodia) known or presumed to be monogamous, and 32 species in 12 genera (Paradigalla, Astrapia, Parotia, Pteridophora, Ptiloris, Lophorina, Epimachus, Drepanornis, Cicinnurus, Semioptera, Seleucidis, Paradisaea) known or presumed to be polygynous. Seventy-five subspecies are presently recognized. The two subfamilies are highly distinctive and share few unambiguous derived characters that prove they are of the same lineage.

Physical characteristics

Birds of paradise vary in size from 6 in (15 cm) and 0.11 lb (50 g) for the king bird of paradise (Cicinnurus regius) to 17.3 in (44 cm) and 1 lb (450 g) for the curl-crested manucode (Manucodia comrii). When tails are added into the size calculations, some birds of paradise exceed 40 in (100 cm) in length. Typically males are larger and heavier than females. As a result of strong morphological radiation, the bill of the various genera varies from short to long, slim to stout, and straight to dramatically curved. The small and finelytipped weak bill of cnemophilins has a wide gape as an adaptation to an exclusive drupe and berry fruit diet. They also have relatively fine and weak legs and feet. In contrast, paradisaeins have large and powerful legs and feet used to acrobatically cling to substrates and to hold food items.

Several species exhibit areas of pigmented bare skin; for example, Wilson's bird of paradise (Cicinnurus respublica) has extensive bright blue bare head skin. Some species have brightly colored wattles or legs and feet. Bare parts tend to be much brighter in males than in females, and they may relate to courtship display and act as species-specific social signals.

Males of species with a brightly colored mouth interior typically gape the bill widely to present this in courtship calling and display.

Species of Macgregoria, Manucodia, Lycocorax, and Paradigalla are generally black and sexually monochromatic with some blue/green iridescence to their feathering. Other species (all polygynous) are sexually dichromatic, with adult males adorned with colorful and often highly elaborated plumage. The remarkably modified and erectile elongate head plumes of Parotia and Pteridophora are associated with gross cranial modifications to facilitate large muscles required to manipulate the plumes during display. The only crested species is Cnemophilus macgregorii, in which both sexes wear a diminutive sagittal crest of a few filamentous sickle-shaped feathers. Females of polygynous species are drably colored in subdued browns and dull yellows (Paradisaea) or are brown and/or rufous above and drably paler below with darker barring to give a cryptic appearance. Males take at least five to seven years to fully acquire adult plumage. Limited evidence suggests that females breed at an earlier age than males, probably after their first year or two. Hatchlings have very little down and their skin becomes characteristically dark after several days.

Birds of paradise have ten primaries and twelve tail feathers. In adult males, tail feathers may be highly modified as nuptial display traits. In any given species these may become longer or shorter, even within a single genus, and more ornate with increasing male age. In most genera the wings are rounded. In adult males of several genera some outer primaries are slightly to highly modified in shape, probably for the production of mechanical sound in flight. The Manucodia exhibit a greatly elongated, coiled, trachea that is displaced to sit subcutaneously on top of the pectoral muscles. This structure produces low far-carrying tremulous call notes unique within the group.

Distribution

Thirty-eight species live on the mainland of New Guinea and its adjacent islands, two are peculiar to the northern Moluccas of Indonesia (paradise crows [Lycocorax pyrrhopterus] and standardwing birds of paradise [Semioptera wallacii]), and two are endemic to areas of eastern Australia (paradise [Ptiloris paradiseus] and Victoria's [P. victoriae] riflebirds). Magnificent riflebirds (P. magnificus) and trumpet manucodes (Manucodia keraudrenii) occur on both New Guinea and the extreme northeastern tip of Australia.

Because of the great altitudinal range of New Guinea, forest-dwelling species have segregated and live within different forest types within one or more altitudinal zones. Elevation is perhaps the most important ecological sorting mechanism permitting the adaptive radiation of local avian lineages in birds of paradise, and also offers closely related species the opportunity to avoid competition while establishing limited geographic sympatry (meeting along a narrow altitudinal zone). Thirteen intergeneric and seven intrageneric wild hybrid crosses have been documented where their ranges/favored habitats overlap, dramatically emphasizing the close genetic relationships between the species of the Paradisaeinae.

Habitat

All species depend on closed humid forest over much of their geographical range, and rainforests and/or moss forests are the most typical habitats of the family as a whole. Associated rainforest edges, wet sclerophyll (Australian vegetation with hard, short, and often spiky leaves) forests and woodlands, gardens, savanna, and subalpine woodlands are also used. Only paradise riflebirds range southward across the Tropic of Capricorn to about 32° South within the subtropics. Glossy-mantled manucodes (Manucodia atra) are exceptional in inhabiting relatively dry open savanna woodlands in addition to lowland rainforests.

Behavior

The majority of species exhibit polygynous (court- and lekbased type) mating systems with promiscuous males and exclusively female nest attendance. Sexual selection has produced male vocalizations, elborate plumages, and complex courtship choreography. Males of polygynous species occupy a mating area and modify display sites by removing leaves and/or debris to create a visual marker to the site. At their display site, males emit an advertisement song of harsh, loud, crow-, bell-, and bugle-like notes, screeches, and rapid bursts of powerful notes to attract females. Other diverse sounds produced in display include wing beating, bill rattling, primary swishing, and wing snapping, and flight induced noise.

Displays of promiscuous males range from solitary and non-territorial (the most common type) to communal lekking mating systems, with a range of intermediate manifestations. Display sites of some males are not dispersed evenly through habitat but are loosely (exploded leks) or tightly (true leks) clustered. In true lekking species, males display in a tight cluster in the canopy branches of one or more trees, and their leks tend to be distantly spaced, long lived, and traditional. Much display activity apparently maintains a male-male dominance hierarchy that limits the choice of potential mates by females to one or more 'alpha' males occupying the central lek position. A small percentage of males of lekking bird species obtain most of the matings in any single season.

Females of known monogamous species emit identifiable vocalizations, whereas among polygynous species all of the loudly broadcast vocalizations are male advertisement calls and females are virtually mute.

Feeding ecology and diet

Birds of paradise eat a range of food types (omnivorous), but they seem to be primarily fruit and arthropod eaters. Only the Cnemophilinae appear not to eat arthropods. Collectively, birds of paradise are known to eat fruits of several hundred plant species, flowers, nectar, leaves, insects, spiders, frogs, and lizards. Most typical birds of paradise initially feed nestlings arthropods but switch to a predominantly fruit or mixed fruit and arthropod diet after a certain age. Parent birds of paradise regurgitate food items to young.

Birds take insects by bark gleaning, dead wood/foliage probing/tearing, and generalized twig and foliage gleaning.

The sexes of predominantly insectivorous species show marked sexual dimorphism in bill size and shape, presumably to limit intersexual competition for this resource.

Other than foraging in ones or twos, birds of paradise (mostly brown female-plumaged individuals) commonly join mixed species foraging flocks of typically brown and/or black birds, predominantly in lowland and hill forest.

Reproductive biology

Courtship in monogamous species is simplistic, consisting of little more than chasing, vocalizing, and limited display posturing in canopy foliage. In polygynous species, courtship is far more complex. The elaborate nuptial plumes of adult males are specifically presented to females in a stereotyped courtship. For example, male Paradisaea lean forward and downward and lower open wings so that their lacy flank plumes can be raised above their back and head, and males of emperor (P. guilielmi) and blue (P. rudolphi) birds of paradise hang fully upside down in courtship. Slow and rhythmic leg flexing that enhances the effect of longer plumes is incorporated into some displays.

All species for which nests are known are solitary nesters. Females of polygynous species construct the nest alone; whether both sexes of monogamous species share the task is not known. Nests of Cnemophilus species are dense, substantial, roughly spherical, domed structures predominantly composed of slender orchid stems overlaid with fresh mosses and ferns that incorporate a token foundation of a few stout short woody sticks. These nests are extremely cryptic. Nests of members of the Paradisaeinae are typically found in tree branches. Nests of the Paradisaeinae (except Manucodia species) are open cup- or bowl-shaped and built of orchid stems, mosses, and fern fronds on branch forks. Manucodia construct a sparse and relatively shallow open cup made predominantly of vine tendrils and suspend it between horizontal forking branches.

Eggs are typically elliptical, ovate, and pinkish to buff with long, broad, brush-stroke-like markings of browns, grays, and lavender or purplish gray. The clutch consists of one or two (rarely three) eggs. Limited data indicate that most multi-egg clutches are laid on successive days, and egg weights as a proportion of mean adult female body weight average 10–15%. Incubation varies from 14 to 27 days. Nestling periods, which are generally longer in higher-altitude species, vary among species from 14 to more than 30 days. Nestling eyes open at about six days old. The care of dependant young out of the nest is little known. Renesting occurs following a nest loss, but there is no evidence of two broods being successfully raised in a single season.

As a generalization, far more breeding takes place during the months between August and January than during February to July, with March to June being least productive. This broad seasonality appears to coincide with a period of abundance of fruits and arthropod prey. A similar cycle occurs in Australia.

Conservation status

Macgregor's bird of paradise (Macgregoria pulchra), black sicklebill (Epimachus fastuosus), Wahnes's parotia (Parotia wahnesi), and blue bird of paradise are listed as Vulnerable.

The yellow-breasted bird of paradise (Loboparadisea sericea), long-tailed paradigalla (Paradigalla carunculata ), ribbon-tailed astrapia (Astrapia mayeri), pale-billed sicklebill (Drepanornis bruijnii), and Wilson's, Goldie's (Paradisaea decora), red (P. rubra), and emperor birds of paradise are considered Near Threatened species.

Significance to humans

Resplendently plumaged adult males of many species have long been killed and their skins preserved for the personal adornment of Papuan men and as highly valued items of trade.

Species accounts

List of Species

Crested bird of paradise
Crinkle-collared manucode
Short-tailed paradigalla
Ribbon-tailed astrapia
Lawes's parotia
King of Saxony bird of paradise
Victoria's riflebird
King bird of paradise
Standardwing bird of paradise
Greater bird of paradise

Crested bird of paradise

Cnemophilus macgregorii

subfamily

Cnemophilinae

taxonomy

Cnemophilus macgregorii De Vis, 1890, Mount Knutsford, Owen Stanley Range, British New Guinea. Two subspecies.

other common names

English: Sickle-crested bird of paradise, multi-crested bird of paradise; French: Paradisier huppé; German: Furchenvogel; Spanish: Ave del Paraíso de MacGregor.

physical characteristics

9.5 in (24 cm); female 0.17–0.28 lb (79–125 g), male 0.20–0.27 lb (90–120 g). Forehead, ear coverts, and upperparts bright flame yellow with orange wash, dulling in color toward rump and tail. Bill, lores, and underparts a dark brownish black. Orange to olive crest, depending on subspecies. Females brownish olive or brownish gray with darker upperparts.

distribution

Occurs patchily in high forests of the central cordillera of New Guinea at altitudes ranging from 6,900 to 11,975 ft (2,100 to 3,650 m). C. m. macgregorii: southeast Papua New Guinea northwestward to at least the Ekuti Divide, east of the Watut/Tauri Gap; C. n. sanguineus: central and eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea, west of the range of the nominate subspecies.

habitat

Upper montane and subalpine forest and forest edge, including secondary growth and disturbed forest and shrubbery.

behavior

A less vocal species than most birds of paradise. The flight of adult males produces a loud whirring sound. Display season is likely at least June through November. Mostly frequents middle and lower forest structure.

feeding ecology and diet

Notably exceptional in being an obligate frugivore, both as adults and nestlings.

reproductive biology

Polygynous, with presumed promiscuous males and exclusively female nest attendance. Breeding at least August through January. Nest is globular, with side entrance, and sits 6.6–13 ft (2–4 m) above ground. Incubation is probably about 26 days or more; nestling period more than 30 days. As only single nestlings have been observed, clutch is probably one egg.

conservation status

Not threatened. Habitat is more restricted than that of many family members, but the vulnerability of this bird, common in optimal habitat, is low because of its higher altitude.

significance to humans

Rarely, skins of adult males are used as human adornment.


Crinkle-collared manucode

Manucodia chalybata

subfamily

Paradisaeinae

taxonomy

Manucodia chalybata Pennant, 1781, New Guinea (restricted to Arfak Mountains).

other common names

English: Green-breasted manucode, crinkle-breasted manucode, green manucode; French: Paradisier vert; German: Grünmanucodia; Spanish: Manucodia de Cuello Arrugado.

physical characteristics

13.0–14.2 in (33–36 cm); female 0.35–0.64 lb (160–289 g), male 0.33–0.58 lb (150–265 g). Male and female have blue-black head and neck with blue-green iridescent feather tips on chin, throat, neck, and nape. Upperparts and uppertail coverts and iridescent violet-black, with dark blue sheen. Underparts also violet-black, but with yellow-green iridescence. Dark bill and legs. Eyes red.

distribution

Hill and lower montane areas of New Guinea mainland and lowlands of Missol Island. Generally at 1,968–4,920 ft (600-1,500 m) but occasionally from sea level to 5,575 ft (1,700 m) altitude.

habitat

Hill forests and midmontane rainforest edges.

behavior

Courtship displays are simplistic, involving a male chasing a female through foliage via numerous perches. The male gives

deep pigeon-like, or deep hollow, calls. Mostly frequents middle to upper forest structure. Flight appears floppy and awkward; wing beats are quick and convulsive, each accompanied by a sharp jerking of the cocked tail and interspersed by short glides.

feeding ecology and diet

Predomininatly frugivorous and specializing in fruits of Ficus figs. Commonly joins mixed species foraging flocks of predominantly black and/or brown birds.

reproductive biology

Socially pair-bonded non-territorial monogamy with both sexes presumed to incubate and provision nestlings, as in other manucodes. Breeding during at least July through September, and in January. Nest is a shallow open cup suspended by its rim from a branch fork. Clutch is one or two eggs.

conservation status

Not threatened. Apparently common over much of range.

significance to humans

In being monogamous, Manucodia provide an interesting contrast to the majority of polygynous family members for socioecological study.


Short-tailed paradigalla

Paradigalla brevicauda

subfamily

Paradisaeinae

taxonomy

Paradigalla brevicauda Rothschild and Hartert, 1911, Mount Goliath, central Dutch New Guinea.

other common names

English: Short-tailed wattled bird of paradise; French: Paradisier à queue courte; German: Langschwanz-Paradigalla; Spanish: Paradigalla de Cola Corta.

physical characteristics

9.0 in (23 cm); female 0.4–0.38 (155–170 g), male 0.35–0.41 lb (160–184 g). Head, upperparts, and underparts a velvety black. Yellowish green crown to nape and small, light blue wattle at the mandible base. Conspicuous bright yellow foreface. Blackish bill and legs.

distribution

Western and central ranges of New Guinea mainland from the Weyland Mountains eastward to the Bismark Range at altitudes of 4,590–8,460 ft (1,400–2,580 m). May be on the Kratke Range, Papua New Guinea, but unrecorded to date.

habitat

Midmontane forests, including beech, forest/garden edges, secondary growth.

behavior

Birds give a rising bell-like zheee call at about 490 ft (150 m) intervals in moss forest, suggestive of dispersed solitary males advertising from song posts. In flight, wings make an audible rattling or rustling.

feeding ecology and diet

Omnivorous, predominantly frugivorous, but little known. Birds acrobatically cling to tree boughs and trunks to tear and probe into epiphytic plant growth for invertebrates and small vertebrates. Nestlings fed a large proportion (65%) of animals, including earthworms, insect larvae, crickets, beetles, mantids, katydids, spiders, frogs, and skinks.

reproductive biology

Polygynous, with presumed promiscuous males and exclusively female nest attendance. Breeding on the Tari Valley slopes recorded in all months except March and November. Nest is a substantial, deep, open cup and the clutch is one egg. Incubation lasts more than 19 days and a known nestling period was 25 days.

conservation status

Not threatened.

significance to humans

None known.


Ribbon-tailed astrapia

Astrapia mayeri

subfamily

Paradisaeinae

taxonomy

Astrapia mayeri Stonor, 1939, Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea.

other common names

English: Ribbon-tailed bird of paradise, ribbon tail; French: Paradisier à rubans; German: Schmalschwanz-Paradeiselster; Spanish: Ave del Paraíso Cola de Moños.

physical characteristics

12.6–13.8 in (32–35 cm), but 20.9–49.2 in (53–125 cm) with adult central rectrices; female 0.23–0.35 lb (102–157 g), male 0.30–0.36 lb (134–164 g). Most easily recognized by the male's long, black-tipped white tail feathers, which are at least three times the length of the bird. Head, throat, and tuft "pompom" over the base of the bill is black with intense metallic yellowish green iridescence. Olive-brown upperparts and black breast with coppery-red border. Deep green and copper abdomen to vent. Females duller, with brownish plumage and shorter tail.

distribution

Only an area of the central cordillera of western Papua New Guinea, from Mounts Hagen and Giluwe to Doma Peaks and the southern Karius Range, at altitudes of 5,900–11,320 ft (1,800–3,450 m).

habitat

Upper montane and subalpine moss forests, forest edges and patches, including disturbed vegetation.

behavior

Not yet clear if adult males, which do have traditional display locations and perches, are solitary displaying or do so in twos or larger numbers. Courtship involves males repeatedly hopping between tree perches; displays recorded during June through September. Extensive flight is by shallow undulations consisting of four to six audible, wing beats followed by a brief downward glide with closed wings; horizontally trailing central rectrices of adult males wave and ripple in the air.

feeding ecology and diet

Mostly lone individuals, but sometimes two to five birds, forage acrobatically on fruits and arthropods at all levels of the forest structure. Fruit possibly represents more than 50% of the diet. Arthropods and small vertebrate animals are obtained by probing/tearing into foliage, wood, and epiphytic vegetation.

reproductive biology

Polygynous with promiscuous (probably lekking) males and exclusively female nest attendance. Breeding known during at least May through March. Often nests in isolated saplings, with no immediately adjacent tree branches or foliage, where the forest canopy is typically lacking directly above. On average, nest is 10–59 ft (3–18 m) above ground. Nest is a deep, substantial, open cup. The clutch is a single egg. In captivity, incubation lasts 21 days and the nestling period is 24 days.

conservation status

Common to abundant in optimal habitat but geographically highly restricted and habitat is limited. Listed as Near Threatened.

significance to humans

Tail plumes of adult males are highly prized for personal adornment by highland men who trade dried skins.


Lawes's parotia

Parotia lawesii

subfamily

Paradisaeinae

taxonomy

Parotia lawesii Ramsay, 1885, Astrolabe Mountains (subsequently defined as the Aruma Apa-Maguli Mountains, Owen Stanley Range, Papua New Guinea). Two subspecies.

other common names

English: Lawes's six-wired bird of paradise, Lawes's six-wired parotia, Lawes's six-plumed bird of paradise, Helena's parotia; French: Paradisier de Lawes; German: Blaunacken-Paradeisvogel; Spanish: Perotia de Lawes.

physical characteristics

9.8 in (25 cm); female 0.27–0.37 lb (122–169 g), male 0.34–0.43 lb (153–195 g). Entirely jet black with short tail. Head decorated with a silvery tuft over base of bill and a frontal crest of dark coppery feathers. Behind each eye are three long, black, wire-like occipital plumes with circular tips. Breast shield of scale-like feathers has highly iridescent yellows, greens, and violets. Female have brown upperparts, black head

to nape, banded orange and blackish underparts, and lack occipital plumes.

distribution

The eastern third of New Guinea's central cordillera, entirely within Papua New Guinea. P. l. lawesii: western and southern highlands of Papua New Guinea southeastward into peninsular Papua New Guinea; P. l. helenae: the northern watershed of peninsular Papua New Guinea, from Waria southeast to Milne Bay. Found between altitudes of 1,640–7,540 ft (500–2,300 m).

habitat

Midmontane forests including primary mixed oak forest, disturbed forest, secondary growth, and remnant forest patched even within extensive village gardens.

behavior

Males clear a terrestrial court to dance upon in courtship display. Courts are typically dispersed to form exploded leks, but some are solitary. Males advertisement-sing from court perches or the forest canopy above but remain mostly silent when interacting with females. Flight swift and buoyant, consisting of four audible wingbeats followed by a short glide.

feeding ecology and diet

Omnivorous, but very predominantly frugivorous. Tears epiphytic growth from tree limbs to find arthropods.

reproductive biology

Polygynous, with promiscuous, solitary, males and exclusively female nest attendance. Breeds June through January. Nests, built in large trees and vine tangles, consist of a substatial but relatively shallow open cup. Only single egg clutches recorded.

conservation status

Not threatened. Widespread, common, and tolerant of habitat disturbance.

significance to humans

Plumes of adult males are worn as wig/head dress by highland men.


King of Saxony bird of paradise

Pteridophora alberti

subfamily

Paradisaeinae

taxonomy

Pteridophora alberti Meyer, 1894. Mountains on the Ambernoh (= Mamberamo) River, Irian Jaya, subsequently restricted to the Weyland Mountains.

other common names

English: King of Saxony's bird of paradise, enamelled bird of paradise, enamelled bird; French: Paradisier de Prince Albert; German: Wimpelträger; Spanish: Ave del Paraíso Rey de Sajonia.

physical characteristics

8.3 in (21 cm); 19.7 in (50 cm) if head plumes of adult male are included; female 0.15–0.19 lb (68–88 g), male 0.18–0.21 lb (80–95 g). Head, mantle, and back is deep black with dark, bronze-green sheen. Occipital plume behind each eye has a bare central shaft with 40–50 "flags" decorating its outer side; the upperside of each is blue while the underside is brownish. Chin and throat is black with highly iridescent violet tips. Breast, abdomen, and vent dark yellow; brownish rump and tail. Females are brownish gray with black-barred white underparts.

distribution

Western and central two-thirds of the central cordillera of New Guinea, from Weyland Mountains of Irian Jaya east, possibly to the Kratke Range of central Papua New Guinea; at altitudes of 4,590–9,350 ft (1,400–2,850 m).

habitat

Mid to upper montane forests and their edges, including lightly disturbed habitat around hunting lodges and tracks.

behavior

Adult males typically solitary and territorial, but in some areas they may aggregate into exploded leks. Adult males advertise vine tendril display perches from perches in the canopy above, giving odd radio static-like advertisement song. A bouncing courtship display is typically subsequently performed upon a suspended vine a few meters from the ground. Singing and display seasonality occurs at least from September to April. Female plumaged birds are far less conspicuous than adult males.

feeding ecology and diet

Omnivorous, but predominantly frugivorous. Favors green fruits, with a particular liking for those of false figs (Timonius). Forages mostly in the canopy and subcanopy.

reproductive biology

Polygynous, with promiscuous males and exclusively female nest attendance. Breeding is occurs at least from July to February. The only observed nesting occurred during late December to the end of January. The nest is a shallow open cup and the only known clutch was a single egg. Incubation is more than 22 days; nestling period is unknown.

conservation status

Not threatened. In general, widespread and common in most areas of appropriate habitat.

significance to humans

The two elaborate head plumes of adult males are sought by highland men as personal adornment. However, cut-out photo-copies of them are sometimes worn, suggesting hunting pressure might be in decline.


Victoria's riflebird

Ptiloris victoriae

subfamily

Paradisaeinae

taxonomy

Ptiloris victoriae Gould, 1850, Barnard Island, North Queensland, Australia.

other common names

English: Queen Victoria's rifle-bird; French: Paradisier de Victoria; German: Victoriaparadeisvogel; Spanish: Ave Fusil de la Reina Victoria.

physical characteristics

9.5 in (24 cm); female 0.17–0.21 lb (77–96 g), male 0.20–0.26 lb (91–119 g). Deep black upperparts, chin, cheek, and breast band. Crown and throat a bright metallic greenish blue. Short tail with metallic green central feathers. Lower breast to vent is a darker, iridescent oil-green. Females are red-brown with whitish throat patch and brow stripe.

distribution

The Atherton region of tropical northeast Queensland, Australia, including some off-shore islands; from Big Tableland, south of Cooktown, to Mount Elliot just south of Townsville. Sea level to 3,940 ft (1,200 m) altitude.

habitat

Lowland to hill rainforest, adjacent eucalyptus and melaleuca woodlands, and landward edges of mangroves.

behavior

Adult males are loudly and frequently vocal in advertising their display sites at the top of vertical broken-off tree stumps, upon

which they perform ritualized courtship postures/movements. Typical advertisement song of adults is an explosive loud sssssshh or yaaaas. Flight noise produced by adult males is a sharp and dry rattling rustle that probably functions as a social signal to conspecifics. Courtship occurs July through December.

feeding ecology and diet

Omnivorous, but arthropods and small vertebrates are taken at least as much as fruits. Nestling diet is mostly animals, including orthopterans, cockroaches, beetles, cicadas, insect larvae, wood lice, spiders, and centipedes. Differences in bill structure between the sexes may reduce competition for animal foods.

reproductive biology

Polygynous, with promiscuous solitary males and exclusively female nest attendance. Breeding occurs late August through early January. Nest is a substantial open cup cryptically placed among concealing foliage at 5–66 ft (1.5–20 m) above ground. Clutch is one to two pinkish eggs marked with elongate brush-stroke-like blotches. Incubation is 18–19 days; nestling period is 13-15 days.

conservation status

Not threatened. Widespread and common throughout remaining and protected habitat.

significance to humans

Once commonly killed and mounted for Victorian bird cabinets as interior decoration.


King bird of paradise

Cicinnurus regius

subfamily

Paradisaeinae

taxonomy

Cicinnurus regius Linnaeus, 1758, East Indies. Two subspecies.

other common names

English: Little king bird of paradise; French: Paradisier royal; German: Königsparadeisvogel; Spanish: Ave del Paraíso Soberbia.

physical characteristics

6.3–7.5 in (16–19 cm), but 12.2 in (31 cm) if central rectrices of adult males included; female 0.08–0.13 lb (38–58 g), male 0.10–0.14 lb (43–65 g). Head, upperparts, and chin to upper breast is crimson, with an orange wash on the crown and darker throat. Jet black spot directly over eye. Narrow, dark green iridescent breast band with whitish lower breast to vent. Undertail and mantle feathers olive-brown, with iridescent green tips to the mantle "cape". Long central retrices with brownish disks at the ends. Violet legs, bill ivory-yellow. Females have dull olive head and upperparts with yellowish underparts and violet legs.

distribution

Throughout the majority of lowland New Guinea mainland and Aru, Missol, Salawati, and Yapen islands; from sea level to 3,115 ft (950 m). C. r. regius: Aru, Misool, and Salawati Islands, the Vogelkop, all of south New Guinea, and the northern watershed of southeast Papua New Guinea from Huon Gulf to Milne Bay; C. r. coccineifrons: northern watershed of New Guinea from the east coast of Geelvink Bay eastward to the Ramu River. Birds of the north coast of the Huon Peninsula remain to be subspecifically identified.

habitat

Lowland rainforests, gallery forests, forest edges, and disturbed and tall secondary forests.

behavior

An inconspicuous species except for males at their display trees. Adult males are perhaps more persistent callers than any other birds of paradise. Courtship involves complex vocalizations, feather manipulations, and body posturing/movements including hanging fully inverted and pendulum-like swinging.

feeding ecology and diet

The diet consists of fruits and animals. Foraging occurs at all forest levels. Birds often join mixed species foraging flocks to seek arthropods in the lower forest.

reproductive biology

Polygynous, with solitary or lekking, sedentary, promiscuous adult males dispersed at traditional display tree perches. Breeding occurs at least during March through October. The open cup nest is built into a tree cavity (unique within family), within which two eggs are laid. Female builds the nest and cares for the young without male assistance. In captivity, incubation lasted 17 days and the nestling period was 14 days.

conservation status

Not threatened; widespread and abundant.

significance to humans

Plumes of adult males are used for personal adornment but hunting pressure represents no threat to populations.


Standardwing bird of paradise

Semioptera wallacii

subfamily

Paradisaeinae

taxonomy

Semioptera wallacii Gray, 1859, near Labuha Village, Batchian (= Bacan Island). Two subspecies.

other common names

English: Wallace's standardwing; French: Paradisier de Wallace; German: Banderparadeisvogel; Spanish: Ave del Paraíso de Wallace.

physical characteristics

9.1–10.2 in (23–26 cm), but 11 in (28 cm) if the standards of adult males be included; female 0.28–0.32 lb (126–143 g), male 0.34–0.38 lb (152-174 g). Light brown head, upperparts, and central tail feathers. Decurved bill and tuft at base of mandible give both sexes a distinctive profile. Chin and upper throat brown, with highly iridescent greenish yellow breast shield. Two white, elongated lesser coverts are often longer than the wing. Legs orange; bill ivory-beige.

distribution

The northern Moluccan Islands of Indonesia. S. w. wallacii: Bacan Island, from low hills up to 3,770 ft (1,150 m) altitude, as probably also the population on Kasiruta Island; S. w. halmaherae: Halmahera Island, from lower hills at about 820 ft (250 m) to about 3,300 ft (1,000 m) altitude.

habitat

Rainforests. Birds apparently absent from flat lowlands and patchy on steeper hilly topography, particularly on limestone. Rare in mature secondary woodland.

behavior

Males remove foliage from lek perches. At the latter males are highly vocal and perform very animated courtship plumage manipulations, postures, movements, and aerial flight displays. Advertisement song is typically a single loud nasal upslurred bark. The display season is from about April to December. Birds, shy and inconspicuous except at leks, typically frequent the lower forest canopy and subcanopy.

feeding ecology and diet

Typically forage in densely foliaged forest canopies. The diet is fruits and arthropods and probably small vertebrates. May join mixed species foraging flocks.

reproductive biology

Polygynous, with densely lekking promiscuous adult males forming aggregations of 30–40 or more at traditional display trees. Breeding during at least May through September. Presumed exclusively female nest attendance. The only nest described was an open cup that included dry leaves and was 33 ft (10 m) above ground; it contained one egg.

conservation status

Not threatened. Contrary to previous impressions, it was widespread and moderately common on the larger islands in 1999; the status of the Kasiruta Island population is not known.

significance to humans

Historically significant in the context of the field work and discoveries of Alfred Russel Wallace.


Greater bird of paradise

Paradisaea apoda

subfamily

Paradisaeinae

taxonomy

Paradisaea apoda Linnaeus, 1758, India = Aru Islands of Indonesia. Two subspecies.

other common names

English: Great bird of paradise; French: Paradisier grand-émeraude; German: Göttervogel; Spanish: Ave del Paraíso Grande.

physical characteristics

13.8–16.9 in (35–43 cm); female 0.37–0.38 lb (170–173 g), male (no weights avialable). The largest of the plumed birds of paradise. Forehead to nape a pale orange-yellow. Forecrown, lores, ear coverts, chin, and throat have fine, iridescent yellowish green feathers. Dark brown ruffled feathers form a breast cushion; brownish upperparts, tail, and abdomen. Bright yellow elongated flank plumes fade to whitish with beige tips. Bill is pale bluish gray. Females drab brown in color and lack long feathers.

distribution

The south of the western half of the New Guinea mainland, excluding the western peninsulas, and the Aru Islands. Lowlands to about 3,300 ft (1,000 m) altitude. P. a. apoda: Aru Islands of Irian Jaya, Indonesia; P. a. novaeguineae : southern New Guinea from Timika, Irian Jaya, eastward to the Fly/Strickland Rivers watershed, western Papua New Guinea.

habitat

Lowland and hill forests.

behavior

Males remove foliage from lek perches. Males are highly vocal and perform animated flank plumage manipulations, body postures, and movements about lek perches in courtship display. The most common lek advertisement song consists of repeated loud, deep, wauk or wonk notes.

feeding ecology and diet

Actively animated in foraging. Eats fruits and animals (mostly arthropods).

reproductive biology

Polygynous, with intensely lekking and promiscuous adult males forming loudly vocal aggregations at traditional display trees. Breeding during at least August through December, March, and May. Known clutches are all of one egg. Incubation and nestling periods unknown.

conservation status

Sufficiently widespread and common to be of no concern as a species, but some local populations have declined.

significance to humans

Adult males were of great significance to the plume trade but modern usage is restricted to local head dress adornment. Live and stuffed adult males are, however, still traded throughout Indonesia and beyond, and this illegal exploitation could represent a limited threat to some populations.


Resources

Books

Frith, C.B., and B. M. Beehler. The Birds of Paradise: Paradisaeidae. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Gilliard, E.T. Birds of Paradise and Bower Birds. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969.

Periodicals

Beehler, B.M. "The Birds of Paradise." Scientific American 261 (1989): 116–123.

Beehler, B.M., and S.G. Pruett-Jones. "Display Dispersion and Diet of Birds of Paradise, a Comparison of Nine Species." Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 13 (1983): 229–238.

Cracraft, J., and J. Feinstein. "What Is Not a Bird of Paradise? Molecular and Morphological Evidence Places Macgregoria in the Meliphagidae and the Cnemophilinae Near the Base of the Corvoid Tree." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 267 (2000): 233–241.

Frith, C.B., and D. W. Frith. "Biometrics of Birds of Paradise (Aves: Paradisaeidae) with Observations on Interspecific and Intraspecific Variation and Sexual Dimorphism." Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 42 (1997): 159–212.

Organizations

Birds Australia. 415 Riversdale Road, Hawthorn East, Victoria 3123 Australia. Phone: +61 3 9882 2622. Fax: +61 3 98822677. E-mail: [email protected] Web site: <http://www.birdsaustralia.com.au>

Clifford B. Frith, PhD

Dawn W. Frith, PhD

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