Typically, we lead such busy lives that we miss the truly magnificent things that happen around us. But every now and then, Mother Nature does something so breathtaking and improbable, you start to wonder, “Did that really just happen?”
One such instance where this would likely happen: observing the courtship ritual of the males in the bird-of-paradise family.
Paradisaeidae is their scientific classification, andafter watching these stunning displays, you can see why they are commonly called “the bird of paradise.”
These lovely creatures are only found on a small percentage of the earth- in the dense rain forests of New Guinea, and a couple remote islands off the coast of Australia- but their spectacular shows could win the whole world over.
This species exhibits extreme dimorphism in both their physical traits, and their behaviour. Dimorphism is the technical term for when different sexes of the same species have different characteristics or forms. While the males of the Paradisaeidae family show off their Day-Glo colours and alien-like antenna feathers, the females are much more somber-looking. Also, the males exhibit captivating dances and postures that aim to impress the rather picky females.
How did this mating ritual start to take place? In a nutshell, it happened because it could.
Paradisaeidae’s nearest relatives are the crows and jays of the Corvidae family. But instead of being surrounded by people and societies, they’ve spent much of their evolutionary history on islands that lacked mammalian predators. Without their presence, even the most noticeable behaviors could attract mates rather than danger.
Cornell University’s Birds-of-Paradise Project currently has researchers studying these amazing displays, and they recently released a treasure trove of colourful videos. The following contains some of our favourites.