MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise (Macgregoria pulchra)

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Macgregor's bird-of-paradise perched on branch
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MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise fact file

MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyParadisaeidae
GenusMacgregoria (1)

Whilst listed within the family Paradisaeidae, the taxonomic position of MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise has long been under scrutiny and it is now widely accepted that this species is not a bird-of-paradise at all, but is in reality a giant honeyeater. Genetic evidence confirms that it is a member of the Meliphagidae family and is most closely related to the common sooty honeyeater (Melipotes fumigatus). However, this has yet to be formerly accepted and as a result MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise is still found within Paradisaeidae and takes a misleading common name (4). It lacks the splendour of the bird-of-paradise species, with a crow-like body shape, black feathers and no extensions on the tail feathers, or the elaborate head-dress. The eyes are decorated with yellow semicircular wattles and there is a large ochre patch on each wing. It is a noisy bird that calls incessantly with a rapid jeet jeet and a longer, softer peer (2).

Also known as
MacGregor’s giant honeyeater, Ochre-winged honeyeater, Orange-wattled bird-of-paradise.
Size
Length: 39 cm (2)
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MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise biology

The taxonomic misnomer was noticed long before genetic studies confirmed the true place of MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise. It was noted that the species is consistently monogamous – something very unusual in the Paradiseaidae. It is also highly faithful to roosting and feeding sites, returning day after day although it has never been seen to defend its territory (6). It appears to be partially nomadic as its reproductive cycle is dependent on the unpredictable fruiting of the podocarp Dacrycarpus compactus, upon which it feeds. However, this species may also feed on other fruits in low bushes and on the ground, and will look for arthropods amongst vegetation (5). It is most commonly sighted between 3,200 and 3,500 metres above sea level (5), perched in the open or on the forest edge (2).

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MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise range

An inhabitant of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea’s mountain tops, MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise lives in small isolated groups. It is most common, and very tame, above 3,000 metres in the Star Mountains where the Ketengban people protect it for cultural reasons. However, it is extremely rare on Mount Albert Edwards in the Whartons, with just one sighting since 1933 (5).

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MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise habitat

Almost completely reliant on the fruiting of its major food plant, the podocarp Dacrycarpus compactus, MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise is limited to subalpine forest and small areas of forest in alpine grassland regions (5).

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MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise status

MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed under Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise threats

The absence of MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise from many parts of the Central Highlands leads researchers to believe that there have been a series of local extinctions in the species’ history, probably caused by habitat changes and hunting pressures. It remains a popular game bird as it is tame, conspicuous as a result of the flash of colour around the eyes, and regularly returns to the same site, making it a very easy target. New mountain roads have caused further fragmentation of its habitat and have also made it easy for hunters to gain access to it (2).

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MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise conservation

MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise is protected by law in both its range states, but this protection is difficult to enforce in remote areas and is not a strong deterrent, as poaching continues. Scientists are interested in monitoring the movement of birds between sites to gain an understanding of the population structure and whether the isolated populations are interbreeding. It is hoped that large, locally-managed forest reserves can be created that focus on preventing hunting and can run ecotourism ventures using MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise as a high altitude flagship species. Educating land-owners is also a high priority, to ensure that they help to protect any birds frequenting their land (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on MacGregor’s bird-of-paradise see:

  • BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Arthropods
A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Monogamous
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Podocarp
A family of coniferous trees found mainly in the southern hemisphere. The seeds are not borne within cones.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Territory
Area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
Wattles
Bare fleshy skin that hangs from the bill, throat or eye of birds.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (April, 2006)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=5806&m=0
  3. CITES (April, 2006)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Cracraft, J. and Feinstein, J. (2000) What is not a bird-of-paradise? Molecular and morphological evidence places Macgregoria pulchra in the Meliphagidae and the Cnemophilinae near the base of the corvoid tree. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 267(144): 233 - 241.
  5. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  6. Beehler, B. (1980) Notes on the behaviour and ecology of MacGregor’s bird of paradise. Australian Ornithology, 83(1): 28 - 30.
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Macgregor's bird-of-paradise perched on branch  
Macgregor's bird-of-paradise perched on branch

© Morten Strange / www.photoshot.com

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