One of the most remarkable birds in the world is not only extremely colorful but can only be found in one particular country.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Wilson’s bird-of-paradise (Cicinnurus respublica), a fascinating creature for multiple reasons.
1. It’s native to just two Indonesian islands
Wilson’s Bird-Of-Paradise is a remarkably colorful species of bird (at least the males) that only occurs in two particular islands.
These are Waigeo and Batanta, two islands situated just off the coast of West Papua, a major province in the east of Indonesia.
Even though hilly, these are also small islands with Waigeo and Batanta covering an area of just 3,155 square kilometers (1,218 square miles) and 453 square kilometers (175 square miles) respectively.
2. They are a member of the bird-of-paradise family
Bird-of-paradise is the name to describe a family of birds known as the family “Paradisaeidae.” This family is part of the order Passeriformes which comprises about 60% of all bird species in the world.
There are 15 different genera in the bird-of-paradise family comprising 42 species of very colorful male birds (they are sexually dimorphic).
Wilson’s version of this type of bird is part of the genus “Cicinnurus” which features 2 other species, the King bird-of-paradise “Cicinnurus regius” and the Magnificent bird-of-paradise (Cicinnurus magnificus).
Some other famous members of this family are the Blue bird-of-paradise (Paradisornis rudolphi), the largest of all, and the Raggiana bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana), the national bird of Papua New Guinea.
3. How big is the Wilson’s bird-of-paradise?
This particular member of the family is one of the smaller species. The males only reach a maximum length of 16 centimeters (6.3 inches).
What’s remarkable is that the females can reach about the same length but weigh a bit less than their sturdy male counterparts.
Males weigh between 53 and 67 grams (1.86 and 2.36 oz) while females weigh anywhere between 52 and 60 grams (1.83 and 2.11 oz).
Another distinctive feature of these birds is their curly tails. It’s much smaller than a similar feature of their bird-of-paradise counterparts as it only reaches a length of about 5 centimeters (1.96 inches).
4. The females are extremely dull-looking compared to the males
The male birds are extremely colorful, a feature they take advantage of during courtship rituals. They have a deep scarlet back, a yellow spot on their neck, and a velvet green breast.
They also have blue feet and their two curly tail feathers are purple, quite an amazing overall color combination.
The most distinctive color can be found on the top of their naked head. This is light blue featuring a black cross pattern. Their heads are so bright that they can be seen in the dark while they are flying around.
This is a truly dimorphic bird species because the females look extremely dull in comparison to their male counterparts. They have a brownish color with a light blue head.
5. They are considered to be “Near-Threatened” due to habitat loss
The range of the Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise consists of two small Indonesian islands which means it’s extremely limited.
This notion combined with the fact that they also suffer from habitat loss has resulted in these birds being considered “Near-Threatened” on the IUCN Red List.
Because these birds are quite hard to spot, it’s unclear how many individuals are still flying around on Waigeo and Batanta. It’s certain, though that their numbers are decreasing as the islands get more developed over time.
More interesting facts about Wilson’s bird-of-paradise
6. The preferred habitat of these birds is dense rainforests on the slopes of the mountains on both Indonesian islands. Even though they can sometimes be found in lowland rainforests, this is usually not the case.
Their preferred range of altitude is anywhere between 300 and 1,200 meters (984 to 3,937 feet). This is one of the main reasons why they are particularly difficult to spot.
7. Saying they are hard to spot is an understatement. Even though these birds have been discovered a long time ago in the 19th century, they were only filmed for the first time in 1996.
Legendary documentary maker David Attenborough was able to catch them on camera by literally annoying one individual. They appear to be keen on keeping their environment clean, and Attenborough purposely scattered leaves all over the floor.
This resulted in an angry Wilson’s bird-of-paradise coming over and cleaning the mess up, resulting in the first capture of this bird species on camera.
8. An interesting fact about these birds is that their scientific name has caused quite a stir in the world of biologists. Respublica refers to the preferred political ideology of the man who first described them, Charles Lucien Bonaparte (1803-1857).
Yes, he was actually the nephew of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte and a fervent admirer of the republic as a form of government. This French biologist and ornithologist felt that too many birds were named after kings and queens, resulting in him naming it as such.
9. So why is the common name of this bird Wilson’s bird-of-paradise?
That’s because Charles Lucien Bonaparte originally bought the specimen from a British ornithologist named Edward Wilson. Since this was the first time the bird was officially described, it was named in his honor.
10. The most fascinating behavior of this bird species is the effort they take to attract a fitting mate. The few times that male birds have been caught in their amazing act shows that they put on quite a display.
This display is a combination of dance, song, and various types of peculiar movements, often using their curly tails, to attract a female.
They are also particular about the area they “perform” in and keep it as clean as possible. This was how Attenborough managed to anger that particular male.
And what a display it is, don’t you think?