Red bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rubra)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyParadisaeidae
GenusParadisaea (1)
SizeMale length (excluding tail wires): 33 cm (2)
Female length: 30 cm (2)
Male weight: 158 - 224 g (2)
Female weight: 115 - 208 g (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

Taking its name from the elongated train of glossy red feathers in the tail, the male red bird-of-paradise is both beautiful and unusual in appearance. The feathering around the face and throat is an iridescent, dark emerald-green, and the slightly longer, curved feathers above the eyes are almost cushion-like in appearance. The mantle of the red bird-of-paradise is mostly pale orange-yellow, although it is slightly more amber on the sides, and more yellow with an iridescent white sheen on the back. The upper breast feathers and the upper parts of the wings are also pale orange-yellow in colour. The back and chest of the red bird-of-paradise are varying shades of glossy brown with reddish highlights, becoming lighter brown underneath. The wings are reddish-brown. The central pair of feathers in the tail is modified into greatly elongated, gently twisted, shiny black ‘tapes’ (2) (4). The female is less eye-catching than the male, lacking the long red plumes in the tail (4). The female red bird-of-paradise also has a dark brown face and throat, while the rest of the plumage is brownish, except for the upper breast which has a discrete bar of glossy, straw-yellow feathers (2).     

The red bird-of-paradise is endemic to the West Papuan Islands off the north-west coast of mainland Papua, inhabiting the islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Gemien and Saonek (2) (5).

The red bird-of-paradise occurs throughout lowland rainforest and hill forest, up to elevations of around 600 metres (2) (5).

The male red bird-of-paradise performs an elaborate courtship ritual to attract a female during the breeding season, with multiple males gathering and displaying in a communal arena, called a ‘lek’. The lek is usually located in a large tree where the upper branches are relatively free from leaves, with the courtship ritual typically performed at dawn, and involving three distinct display phases, with the final phase ending in a mating sequence. It is thought that the clutch size of the red bird-of-paradise is one or two eggs, which are laid in a nest built solely by the female (2) (4). The eggs are incubated by the female for around 14 to 17 days, and the young chicks leave the nest between 15 and 20 days after hatching (2). The red bird-of-paradise feeds on fruits, berries and insects (2) (4).

Destruction of forest habitat is the primary threat affecting the survival of the red bird-of-paradise. On Batanta in particular, a lack of protected areas means that major habitat loss has occurred due to logging, while on Waigeo, selective logging and a cobalt-mining concession pose further threats to the remaining suitable habitat. Although the red bird-of-paradise is known to inhabit areas of the protected Pulau Waigeo Nature Reserve on the island of Waigeo, there are concerns that this has been vastly reduced in size in recent years (2) (5) (6).

In the past, the red bird-of-paradise was hunted for its skin (complete with the feathers), but the current extent of the practice and how it impacts on the population is uncertain (2) (4). It is likely that hunting for skins continues locally, and that some individuals are taken for the cage-bird trade (5).

The red bird-of-paradise occurs in some protected areas, and is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that trade in the species should be carefully monitored and regulated (2) (3). Recommended conservation measures, proposed in an attempt to secure the declining population, include conducting local surveys to determine the current distribution and abundance of the red bird-of-paradise, as well as in-depth surveys of its specific habitat requirements and response to forest loss and fragmentation. Another important measure to safeguard the future of the species is to ensure that the existing reserves in which the red bird-of-paradise occur are maintained, and are protected against further habitat loss and destruction (5).

To find out more about birds-of-paradise, see:

To find out more about conservation projects in Western Papua and Papua New Guinea, see:

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

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Sargatal, J. (2009) Handbook of Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-Shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (August, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. Chester Zoo (August, 2010)
    http://www.chesterzoo.org/AnimalsandPlants/Birds/PerchingBirds/Red%20Bird%20of%20Paradise.aspx
  5. BirdLife International (August, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=5840&m=0
  6. BirdLife: EBA Factsheet – West Papuan Lowlands (August, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=EbaHTMDetails.asp&sid=172&m=0