Evolutionary biologist Ed Scholes and wildlife photographer Tim Laman have spent a great deal of the past ten years in the untamed wilderness of New Guinea studying the family of birds known as Birds of Paradise. The 39 species which are native to this range of forested islands are anomalous. Nowhere else on earth have birds evolved to possess the astounding variety of colors and behaviors which the male Birds of Paradise employ in their courtship displays. Brilliant plumage and skin colors, voices that sound like aliens from outer space, shape-shifting abilities, specially designed feathers and bodies, and elaborate choreography can be found among these extraordinary birds.
The Cornell Ornithology Lab continues to sponsor the ongoing work of Scholes and Laman and has put together an amazing website containing many videos of their work. I could spend a week there and not grow tired of the beauty and uniqueness they have captured on video. Here is an introductory video for the project, sure to peak your interest, followed by three videos that focus on a specific type of bird. There are plenty more on the website!
Next, the amazing dance of the Carola’s Parotia. Check it out, this guy has the moves!
Do you remember a strange bird from the introductory video that looks rather like a psychedelic smiley face, hopping around on a branch in front of a female? Known as the Superb Bird of Paradise, he is a fantastic shape-shifter with a built in ability for optical illusion. Weird and stunning.
Finally, the King of Saxony is notable for his gorgeous “wire” plume feathers and his voice, which sounds like it is from another planet. Watch what happens when coordinates his voice and his feathers. These birds are showmen.