Bird-of-paradise: where they live, how long they live and their peculiarities



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Bird-of-paradise: where they live, how long they live and their peculiarities

The vast majority of bird-of-paradise species are endemic to New Guinea, so much so that the island is also nicknamed Bird-of-Paradise Island. Birds of paradise are rainforest dwellers. Most of the species occupy a very restricted range, limiting themselves to living in the marshy areas, in the mangroves, in the cloud forest and above all in the montane forest or in insular environments, a fact which makes these birds very vulnerable to habitat alteration.

Among the less demanding species in these terms are the magnificent shotgun bird, which adapts to living also in temperate or even secondary subtropical forests, and the various species of manucodia, some of which can even be observed even in areas of wooded savannah.

In the past, it was thought that these birds never landed on the ground, with the females that even nested on the back of the male: this was due to the accounts of Antonio Pigafetta, deceived by the fact that the preserved specimens that reached the European explorers and scholars were without legs, cut off by the natives to be able to use them as ornaments.

Most bird-of-paradise species are solitary and diurnal, spending most of their lives foraging for food in the thick canopy. The diet of these animals essentially consists of fruit and invertebrates, with some species mostly frugivorous and others more markedly insectivorous: the insectivores tend to move between the fronds and the trunks and have more solitary and territorial habits, while the frugivores mostly stay on top of the trees and are more tolerant of the presence of conspecifics.

To reduce competition for food, the various species spread in the same habitat tend to specialize in feeding on different food sources: for example, the manucodia feed mostly on figs, the six-feathered birds of paradise eat mainly berries and the paradisee they specialize in eating fruit with peel or shell.

The diet is also sporadically integrated with nectar or small vertebrates. All species eat after resting, sometimes using a paw to manipulate the food: the seeds are not digested, but dispersed in the environment, so that the birds of paradise assume an important task for the propagation of many plant species.

The appearance, on the whole, recalls that typical of passerines. The wings are rounded in shape, with all species adapted for flight: the shape of the beak is rather variable, going from long and curved to stumpy and conical depending on the species, while there is little variation in the shape of the beak between the two genders in the same species. Typically these birds live between 15 and 20 years.