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Endemic to the mountain forests of New Guinea, the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise (Pteridophora alberti) is best-known for the flamboyant, mate-attracting efforts of its males. Throughout their evolution, male birds-of-paradise have been under immense selective pressure to win the attentions of females. Even the King-of-Saxony’s extraordinary head wires aren’t quite enough. They’ve had to develop a display that includes waving their head plumes, rhythmically bouncing on a perch, and delivering an extraordinary screeching, buzzing, hissing call that sounds like anything but a bird.
The courtship displays – which often double as a means of keeping competitors at a comfortable distance – make use of bright yellow breast feathers, wildly waving head plumes and peppy dance maneuvers capped off with an exceptionally outsized, almost otherworldly bit of squawking. This video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a glimpse into the world of this idiosyncratic little bird, which has proven notoriously difficult to photograph in its rugged natural habitat.
Director: Tim Laman
Text adapted from Aeon and Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Running time: 4 minutes
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