Keep your eyes trained on the trees during our Wild Papua New Guinea trip, and you may be fortunate to spot one of the showiest birds on earth, the bird of paradise. The island is home to 40 species of these dazzling male avian dancers, known for carefully selecting and preparing a “stage” on which to perform elaborate courting choreographies for their more subdued mates.
Their feathered finery and elaborate displays have for centuries attracted more than just a female bird of paradise. The traditional cultures of Papua New Guinea have hunted the male birds of paradise since time immemorial to adorn their own ceremonies and ritual dress. And the first sighting of these birds by crew members on Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world ignited European demand for the feathers, which became fashionable on women’s millinery up until the early 20th century.
Although their numbers have been threatened by hunting, the biggest danger to the survival of the bird of paradise today is deforestation. They are protected and may only be legally hunted in strictly limited numbers by local tribesmen for their ceremonial use… and by awestruck visitors armed with cameras and binoculars.