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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote: Birds of Paradise

Air Date: Week of

Birds of Paradise are distinct for their bright colorations and extravagant feathering. Their flashy appearances are a result of sexual selection. (Photo: Mark A Harper)

Some birds are downright gorgeous, and as BirdNote’s Mary McCann explains, few are quite as beautiful and exotic as New Guinea’s Birds of Paradise.



CURWOOD: If you like the beautiful and photogenic, today’s BirdNote® is for you. Mary McCann takes us to the tropical Pacific to meet one of its most exotic, and colorful natives.


It is early morning on the island of New Guinea, as the lowland forests erupt with the crowing calls of male Raggiana Birds of Paradise.


Groups of male Raggiana Birds of Paradise perform elaborate displays to attract females. The size of small crows, the males have a yellow head, bright green throat, and a lush mass of fine, russet-orange plumes that hang well beyond their tails. In a sequence known as “the flower display,” the males hang upside down with their wings flexed downward, while flaunting the lustrous russet plumes upward.


“Birds of Paradise”— an aptly exotic name for this most varied and extravagantly decorated group of birds. All forty-three species are found on New Guinea, or nearby.

Picture one named the Ribbon-tailed Astrapia as it flies along the forest edge.

All 43 species of Birds of Paradise are found on the island of New Guinea. Their elaborate feather formations can sometimes make flight difficult. (Photo: Jerry Oldenettel)


With an emerald-green head and velvety black body, the Astrapia trails two slender, white tail-plumes a full three feet behind its body. They undulate like fine ribbons in the breeze.

I’m Mary McCann.
Written by Bob Sundstrom
Calls of the birds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Raggiana Bird of Paradise and Ribbon-tailed Astrapia recorded by Eleanor Brown.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© Tune In to Nature.org November 2017 Narrator: Mary McCann

CURWOOD: And for pictures, bask in our website, LOE.org.



The “Birds of Paradise” story on the BirdNote® website

About the Ribbon-tailed Astrapia from the Cornell Lab of Ornthology

Birds of Paradise Project, Cornell Lab of Ornithology


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