The birds–of–paradise are a family of birds that live only in New Guinea, a few surrounding islands, and a small part of adjacent Australia. The 40+ species in the family are renowned for the brilliant colors and complex displays of the males – the result of sexual selection by females. Over the course of about 20 million years, these astounding animals evolved from a single ancestor that resembled a crow.
- The Species
Biologists have organized closely related species into 15 groups each called a genus (plural: genera). Explore how taxonomy helps make sense of biological diversity.
- Adaptations for Attraction
The unrivaled displays of male birds–of–paradise combine extreme feathers, dazzling colors, piercing sounds, and precise movements. These are all adaptations with a single function: to attract mates.
- Evolution in Isolation
The males owe their exotic plumes and dances to sexual selection – the subtle power of females choosing mates over millions of years.
The birds–of–paradise include tiny, starling–sized birds and big, crow–sized birds; birds in vivid blues, greens, and reds; birds with head plumes, tail plumes, back plumes, chest plumes, and no plumes; mountain birds and swamp birds; branch dancers, pole dancers, ballerina dancers. Learn about the species, their adaptations for attraction, and how they evolved in the sections above.
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