Up to 30 years
under human care
under human care
Indonesia and northeastern Australia
Sexually dimorphic species are known for their flashy males in all shades of red, yellow and blue. Females tend to be drab brown. After mating, the male leaves for yet another female. The female takes on the role of single mother.
But not all males are gaudy philanderers. The males of some species stay with one female throughout the mating season and take on parenting roles as well. The males and females of such species usually sport uniform blue and black plumage.
The males of many species are noted for their showmanship. They display in a common arena known as a lek, where they compete for females. Some dance in trees. Others stage their shows on the forest floor, creating ‘spotlights’ of sunshine by clearing away parts of overhanging foliage. Their dance routine may involve strutting stiffly or freezing and spinning in turn. Eye-catching head or tail wires and elongated plumes are variously manipulated during display.
The plumes of these birds were once so highly regarded, they were incorporated into the ceremonial dress of royalty. Hunters who collected the birds prepared the skins to emphasise the beauty of the feathers. The wings and legs were regularly removed in the process.
When quizzed about how the birds perched or flew without any limbs, Moluccan traders who had never seen the birds in life responded that they were bolong diuata, the birds of the gods.
And so the legend began that the birds floated high in the sky, feeding on dew and only dropped to the surface of earth in death. Female birds were believed to incubate their eggs in the backs of the males. Their ethereal image persisted in the minds of the public and up till the 17th century, some European artists were still painting pictures of Eden with birds sailing wingless and limbless in the skies of paradise.
The lesser and the twelve-wired birds of paradise are two other species we’ve bred. The twelve-wired had never been bred under human care before. In recognition of our achievement, we were bestowed the First Breeders Award by the American Pheasant & Waterfowl Society.