“Legless bird of paradise”
The Greater bird-of-paradise is the biggest member of the genus Paradisaea. These birds were named by Carolus Linnaeus as "legless bird of paradise" or Greater birds-of-paradise because natives prepared early trade-skins for Europe without feet, resulting in the misconception that these beautiful birds were visitors from paradise kept aloft by means of their plumes and only touched the earth when they died. The male has large yellow ornamental plumes on its flanks and two long tail wires, whereas the female has brown plumage. Their lifespan is unknown but generally birds-of-paradise live 5-8 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity
The Greater bird-of-paradise lives in southwest New Guinea and the Aru Islands in Indonesia, in hill forest and lowland. In 1909-1912 Sir William Ingram introduced a small population to Little Tobago Island in the West Indies to try to save this bird from extinction, as it had been overhunted for its plumes. These populations survived until 1958 at least but are most likely extinct now.
Habits and lifestyle
There is little information about this elusive species’ social behavior. They are mostly solitary birds.
Diet and nutrition
Greater birds-of-paradise are polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. Lekking males perch on traditional tree display perches, up to 15 on a single lek, along with any younger males with female type plumage. The bird briefly holds his wings in front of his body and throws his flank plumes over his back, then hops up and down along the perch, raising or lowering his bill as he goes; then he raises his plumes over back and moves to the low point of the perch and hangs, facing downwards with his plumes out; then lowers his body along the perch, extends his wings, raises his plumes and hops along the branch while he calls, then bends forward, extending his wings and plumes. Breeding takes place from March to May and August to December. The female builds and attends the nest alone, laying as many as seven eggs per clutch. These birds sometimes mate with the Raggiana bird-of-paradise.
It is unclear which factors exactly influence the decline of the Greater bird-of-paradise populations. However, the decline is probably due to hunting for the trade in plumes.
According to IUCN, the Greater bird-of-paradise is common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.
Fun facts for kids
- At the right time of year, it is not difficult to observe male birds-of-paradise enact their magical courtship display because they return to the same trees to do it. Dozens of males may arrive at one tree, and some of them use the same trees generation after generation.
- There are 39 species of birds-of-paradise, including birds the size of starlings and the size of crows, in vivid greens, blues, and reds; some with head plumes, others with tail plumes, chest plumes, back plumes, no plumes; swamps birds and mountain birds; ballerinas, branch dancers, and pole dancers.
- It is said that the sixteenth century Europeans who named this bird had never seen something quite so beautiful in the wild. They therefore believed that this bird had flown straight from the Garden of God to Earth and so named it ‘Bird of Paradise’ or ‘Bird of the Gods’.
- Some birds-of-paradise even have feathers that shimmer and catch the light.
- Not all species of bird-of-paradise are brightly colored or possess fancy feathered "ornaments." Not all of the males leave the females after breeding. Some, such as the manucodes, are less flamboyant and colorful, a male tends to mate with only one female per breeding season, and the parents both help to build the nest and feed the chicks.