The birds of paradise are members of the family Paradisaeidae of the order Passeriformes.
Their habitats are: rain forests and mid-montane forests, with a few species found in open savannas.
There are an estimated 42 species of bird of paradise.
The lifespan is unknown in the wild and up to 30 years in zoos.
Size varies depending on species, from the king bird of paradise at approximately 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) to the black sicklebill at 110 centimeters (43 inches).
Most species 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.
The majority of birds of paradise are sexual dimorphic (a difference in coloration between genders). Males have brightly colored and elaborate plumage while the females’ plumage is more drab.
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.
The feeding habits of birds of paradise are not well known, but it is believed that most species are fruit eaters. Most birds of paradise also eat insects; they have been observed tearing apart dead wood to get to insects. Some species have been seen eating seeds, frogs and reptiles.
The 42 species of birds of paradise look very different from each other, and they also also sound very different from each other. But researchers are only beginning to investigate their calls in detail. The sounds they make run the gamut from basic squawks, to seemingly mechanical noises, to melodious whistles, to sounds that don’t involve their voices at all.
Birds of paradise tend to be solitary birds and only come together to mate.
Males put their bright colors and unusual ornaments to good use when they display for females. Most males perform bizarre and complex courtship displays to attract potential female mates. Some species perform solo while others perform in large groups known as leks. After mating, most female birds of paradise will leave and raise their young alone.
Birds-of-paradise build their nests from soft materials, such as leaves, ferns, and vine tendrils, typically placed in a tree fork.
Clutch size is somewhat uncertain. In the large species, it is almost always just one egg. Smaller species may produce clutches of 2–3. Eggs hatch after 16–22 days, and the young fledge at 20 to 30 days of age but may stay with the parent(s) for many weeks before heading out on their own.
Hunting for plumes and habitat destruction have reduced some species to endangered status; habitat destruction due to deforestation is now the predominant threat.
Not all birds within the bird of paradise taxonomic family carry the bird of paradise name; there are also sicklebills, astrapias, paradigallas, riflebirds, parotias, manucodes, and the paradise-crow.
Many zoos have received shipments of female birds of paradise, only to discover, several years later, that their females were really males! For some species, it takes many years before the male has his fanciful adult plumage.
Carola’s Parotia bird of paradise performs some of the most complex courtship dances in the animal kingdom.
Not all bird of paradise species are brightly colored or have fancy feathered “ornaments.”
Hunting of birds of paradise has occurred for a long time, possibly since the beginning of human settlement.
Bird of paradise plumes are used as currency by certain New Guinea tribes.
Humans have used bird of paradise plumes as symbols of power, wealth, or sexuality for centuries.
A male Raggiana bird of paradise is on the flag and stamps of Papua New Guinea. The bird is important in social and cultural activities, and its plumes are often used as ceremonial decoration.
The plume from the bird of paradise was used in the Royal crown worn by the King of Nepal, before the establishment of a republic. Now, the crown is housed in Naraynhiti Palace Museum.
The first record of birds of paradise in European literature was in 1522.
The southern hemisphere constellation Apus represents a bird-of-paradise.