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New Bird of Paradise Discovery

Edwin Scholes and Tim Laman suspected that there may be some genetic variations among;a particular species know as the superb bird-of-paradise, when they noticed a difference in bird calls. At the time this was supported by the finding of genetic variance in superb bird of paradise museum specimens. After many years of research the suspicion can finally be confirmed.

Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise are found in Papua New Guinea and other surrounding areas such as Eastern Indonesia and Eastern Australia. They are known for their striking and beautiful colours, with bright plumages of yellow, blue, scarlet, and green making them some of the worlds most attractive and mesmerising birds.

Males often have ruff-like feathers, or elongated feathers called wires or streamers. Others have huge head plumes or large breast shields or head fans. They are also known for putting these elements of their feathers and plumage to use in elaborate mating rituals.

Dancing Shoes

Many species of birds have mating rituals, with males often performing dances in front of females to impress them, much as it is with humans in fact! But birds of paradise are known for being an extreme example of this phenomenon which we see throughout nature.

Females will choose their mating partner based on various appealing characteristics which will then be passed on to the next generation. The abundance of food and scarcity of predators (not to mention the lack of human disruption) has allowed these birds to flourish. By this stage, their dances and use of their colourful feathers seems to be something almost absurd, but very precious and captivating to behold.

A new addition

The superb bird was thought to be unique among the 43 different types of birds of paradise. It is famed for its own mating dance whereby it in effect uses its black feathers to pull up a cloak around its head. From then, it dances around the female, with the bright blue breast feathers and eyes shining out from the black cloak-like oval shape.

However now ornithologist Edwin Scholes and photographer Tim Laman have proposed that there is a separate variety of the superb bird of paradise – the Vogelkop superb. In fact, through a combination of field work and museum research, they have proposed that the Vogelkop is genetically distinct from the superb bird of paradise, which is now to be named the greater superb.

Similarities and Differences

There are some similarities in the two variants. Primary among the similarities in overall appearance is that, like the original superb, the Vogelkop’s black feathers are among the darkest known in the world, with the microscopic structure of the feathers absorbing almost 100% of light.

With that said, there are some key differences in the mating ritual dance. The Vogelkop for example has a semi circle shaped cloak rather than an oval shape. It moves around the female in a far more smooth manner, taking shorter shuffling steps rather than bounding up and down.

Its noise is also more tonal rather than the shrill squawk of the greater superb. In addition, the Vogelkop keeps its breast feathers hidden until later on in the mating dance, rather than having them exposed from the beginning.

The observed evidence of distinct behaviour, sounds and appearance now have confirmed the previously suspected notion that there are two different variations within this genus of birds of paradise.


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