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Birds Guide


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Bird of Paradise
Lesser Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea minor
Lesser Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea minor
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Paradisaeidae
13, see list below

The birds of paradise are members of the family Paradisaeidae of the order Passeriformes. They are found in Australasia regions of eastern Indonesia, New Guinea and northeastern Australia. The member of this family are perhaps best known for the striking plumage possessed by the male of most species, which are used in courtship displays in order to attract females. Many species also have highly elongated and elaborate feathers extending from the tail, wings or head. Despite this extravagant plumage, they are anatomically among the most primitive songbirds.

The best known for their plumage are the species of the genus Paradisaea, including the type species the Greater Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea apoda. This species was described from specimens brought back to Europe from trading expeditions. These specimens had been prepared by native traders by removing their wings and feet, which led to the belief that the birds never landed but were kept permanently aloft by their plumes. This gave both the name "birds of paradise" and the specific name apoda - without feet.

Most species have elaborate mating rituals, with the Paradisaea species having a Lek-type mating system. Others, such as the Cicinnurus and Parotia species, have highly ritualized mating dances, with Parotia species presenting ballet tutu-like display plumage in a dance that is among the most astounding behaviors of all birds due to its completely accidental, but nonetheless uncanny resemblance to hula and limbo dances.

Due to the peculiarities of their mating system, birds of paradise are among the birds where hybrids most frequently occur, together with ducks and hummingbirds, which both also have highly ornamental plumage in males and often form groups for mating purposes. Some scholars merge this family together with the Corvidae.


Use by humans

The native societies of New Guinea often use bird of paradise plumes in their dress and rituals, and the plumes were very important in Europe in ladies' millinery in past centuries. Hunting for plumes and habitat destruction has reduced some species to endangered status. Habitat destruction due to deforestation is the predominant reason today. Hunting for their plumes for millinery was a significant factor in the late 19th and early 20th century, but as of today, they enjoy legal protection and hunting is only permitted at a sustainable level to fulfil the ceremonial needs of the local tribal population. As for Pteridophora plumes, scavenging from old bowerbird bowers is encouraged. When King Mahendra of Nepal was crowned in 1955, it was found that the bird of paradise plumes of the Nepali royal crown were in need of replacement. Due to the hunting ban, replacements were eventually procured from a confiscated shipment seized by United States Customs.

Hunting of birds of paradise has occurred for a long time, possibly since the beginning of human settlement. It is a peculiarity that among the most frequently-hunted species, males start mating opportunistically even before they grow their ornamental plumage. This may be an adaptation maintaining population levels in the face of hunting pressures, which have in all probability been present since 30 millennia.

Bird of paradise could also be found in Malaysia. They are highly sought after by traditional healers for medical purposes. In Malaysia these endangered birds are called Cendrawasih.

Species of Paradisaeidae

Genus Lycocorax
  • Paradise Crow, Lycocorax pyrrhopterus

Genus Manucodia

  • Glossy-mantled Manucode, Manucodia atra
    Jobi Manucode, Manucodia jobiensis
    Crinkle-collared Manucode, Manucodia chalybata
    Curl-crested Manucode, Manucodia comrii
    Trumpet Manucode, Manucodia keraudrenii

Genus Paradigalla

  • Long-tailed Paradigalla, Paradigalla carunculata
    Short-tailed Paradigalla, Paradigalla brevicauda

Genus Astrapia

  • Arfak Astrapia, Astrapia nigra
    Splendid Astrapia, Astrapia splendidissima
    Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, Astrapia mayeri
    Stephanie's Astrapia, Astrapia stephaniae
    Huon Astrapia, Astrapia rothschildi

Genus Parotia

  • Western Parotia, Parotia sefilata
    Carola's Parotia, Parotia carolae
    Berlepsch's Parotia, Parotia berlepschi
    Lawes's Parotia, Parotia lawesii
    Eastern Parotia, Parotia helenae
    Wahnes's Parotia, Parotia wahnesi

Genus Pteridophora

  • King of Saxony Bird of Paradise, Pteridophora alberti

Genus Lophorina

  • Superb Bird of Paradise, Lophorina superba
Genus Ptiloris
  • Magnificent Riflebird, Ptiloris magnificus
    Eastern Riflebird, Ptiloris intercedens
    Paradise Riflebird, Ptiloris paradiseus
    Victoria's Riflebird, Ptiloris victoriae

Genus Epimachus

  • Black Sicklebill, Epimachus fastuosus
    Brown Sicklebill, Epimachus meyeri
    Black-billed Sicklebill, Epimachus albertisi
    Pale-billed Sicklebill, Epimachus bruijnii
    Elliot's Bird of Paradise Epimachus ellioti
May be extinct, or just a hybrid of Black Sicklebill (Epimachus fastuosus) and Arfak Astrapia (Astrapia nigra)

Genus Cicinnurus

  • Magnificent Bird of Paradise, Cicinnurus magnificus
    Wilson's Bird of Paradise, Cicinnurus respublica
    King Bird of Paradise, Cicinnurus regius

Genus Semioptera

  • Wallace's Standardwing, Semioptera wallacii

Genus Seleucidis

  • Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise, Seleucidis melanoleuca

Genus Paradisaea

  • Lesser Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea minor
    Greater Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea apoda
    Raggiana Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea raggiana
    Goldie's Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea decora
    Red Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea rubra
    Emperor Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea guilielmi
    Blue Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea rudolphi



  • Loria's Bird-of-paradise, Cnemophilus loriae - may not be in this family due to recent research [1]
    Crested Bird-of-paradise, Cnemophilus macgregorii - may not be in this family due to recent research [2]
    Yellow-breasted Bird-of-paradise, Loboparadisea sericea - may not be in this family due to recent research [3]
    Macgregor's Bird-of-paradise, Macgregoria pulchra - recently found to be a honeyeater [4]
    Lesser Melampitta, Melampitta lugubris - tentatively included in this group
    Greater Melampitta, Melampitta gigantea - tentatively included in this group


  • A Bird of paradise is depicted on the flag of Papua New Guinea.
  • Birds of Paradise is one of the most favored cards in Magic: The Gathering.


  • Frith, Clifford B. & Beehler, Bruce M. (1998): The Birds of Paradise: Paradisaeidae. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198548532

External links

| Up
| Artamidae
| Atrichornithidae
| Callaeidae
| Campephagidae
| Cinclosomatidae
| Climacteridae
| Corcorachidae
| Corvidae
| Dicruridae
| Icteridae
| Irenidae
| Laniidae
| Malaconotidae
| Maluridae
| Meliphagoidea
| Menuridae
| Neosittidae
| Oriolidae
| Orthonychidae
| Pachycephalidae
| Paradisaeidae
| Pardalotidae
| Petroicidae
| Pityriaseidae
| Pomatostomidae
| Prionopidae
| Ptilonorhynchidae
| Turnagridae
| Vangidae
| Vireonidae

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