The king bird-of-paradise, this so-called "living gem", is the smallest and the most vividly colored of the birds-of-paradise. Males are recognizable by their brilliant red coloring and their two long, ornamental wire-like tail feather shafts, and the circular swirl of feathers of bright green on the ends. The underside is white, and there is a green stripe across the chest. A male also features a black spot above each eye. The legs and feet of both males and females are blue; the color of the female is much less bright, with her back, head, and throat being olive-brown and her chest a variegated buff. The lifespan of this species is unknown. Generally a bird-of-paradise lives 5-8 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity.
King birds-of-paradise live on the mainland of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and on the surrounding islands, including Aru, Salawati, Missol, and Yapen, in lowland rainforests, secondary forests and forest edges.
Habits and lifestyle
There is little information available about this species’ social behavior. Birds-of-paradise tend to be solitary birds and only come together to mate.
Diet and nutrition
The King bird-of-paradise is mainly frugivore, it eats mainly fruits and arthropods.
These birds are polygynous, and after mating they go on to attract the next female. A female will incubate the eggs and feed the chicks by herself. Males will display on their own at exploded leks or at traditional arboreal courts in groups. Displays are from October to January. The male displays by perching upright on a branch, vibrating his wings and then holding his body parallel to the branch, spreading his pectoral feathers and raising his tail over his head while dancing. He then swings his tail and then his body side to side and finally hangs upside down on the branch with his wings folded, swinging like a pendulum. Males that do not succeed in impressing the females through their displays may possibly never mate at all. March to October is the breeding season. The females will build and attend their nests alone in the cavities of lower trees. The incubation period is about 17 days and the nestling period is for about 14 days.
King birds-of-paradise are abundant and are not considered as threatened. However the skins and bright feathers of the male are sometimes sought by the native men of New Guinea.
According to IUCN, the King bird-of-paradise is common and widespread 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 remain stable.
Fun facts for kids
- Certain New Guinea tribes use bird-of-paradise plumes as currency.
- The first record was made in 1522 of birds-of-paradise in the literature of Europe.
- Some females mate with other species, as hybrids between Magnificent bird-of-paradise and the King bird-of-paradise have appeared.
- Many zoos have been sent what were thought to be female birds-of-paradise, but discovered several years later that these were actually males. For some species, the male’s fancy adult plumage takes many years to manifest.
- Some species of bird-of-paradise use shed snakeskin in their nests. It is believed that this may serve as protection from predators.
- Birds-of-paradise can be noisy. They call to establish their territory, to advise a potential mate of their location, or to sound the alarm, using different vocalizations for the different species. They also communicate by beating their wings or rattling their bill.