Photo: Ribbon-tailed bird of paradise on a branch

Divas of the avian world, elaborately feathered birds of paradise, like this ribbon-tailed species, practice elaborate courtship rituals.

Photograph by Robert Sisson

Map

Map: Bird of paradise range

Bird of Paradise Range

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Fast Facts

Type:
Bird
Diet:
Varies by species
Average life span in the wild:
Varies by species and habitat
Size:
4.75 to 39 in (12 to 100 cm)
Weight:
Varies by species
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Bird of paradise compared with adult man

There are more than three dozen species in the family Paradisaeidae, more commonly known as the birds of paradise. Most are distinguished by striking colors and bright plumage of yellow, blue, scarlet, and green. These colors distinguish them as some of the world's most dramatic and attractive birds. Males often sport vibrant feathered ruffs or amazingly elongated feathers, which are known as wires or streamers. Some species have enormous head plumes or other distinctive ornaments, such as breast shields or head fans.

Males put their bright colors and unusual ornaments to good use when they display for females. Their elaborate dances, poses, and other rituals accentuate their appearance and put on a phenomenal show for both female birds and any humans lucky enough to be in the vicinity. Such displays can last for hours, and in many species they consume a significant part of the male's time.

Birds of paradise are found in New Guinea and surrounding islands. The manucodes and riflebirds species also dwell in Australia. Birds of paradise are so attractive that their appearance once made them the target of skin hunters, who decimated some species.

These birds also lend their name to a colorful flower. South Africa's bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a member of the banana family. It sports a beautiful flower believed to resemble the avian bird of paradise in flight.

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