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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s Birds of Paradise project

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s fascinating and beautifully shot Birds of Paradise project is seriously addictive stuff. The birds-of-paradise are 39 different species of birds that live in New Guinea and the surrounding islands. They are colorful, unusually plumed birds that have complex mating rituals that include dancing and posing. 

After we saw this introduction, we watched how they make sounds, dance, and shapeshift. Happily there are quite a few videos. Watch this video on their dance moves:

The bizarre dances of birds-of-paradise aren’t mere flights of fancy. Young males inherit those dance steps from their fathers, then refine them through practice and watching adults. Less obvious but equally important are the watchful females—look for them in these video clips. It’s ultimately their choices that decide which dances reach the next generation.

The video below explores the Psychedelic Smiley Face of the Superb Bird-of-Paradise.

“The change is so complete that females just see a jet-black disk with an electric-blue “smiley face” pattern. A close look at the transformation reveals how modified feathers on the head, back, and flank combine in an unexpected way to create a spectacular effect.”

Birds of paradise also make a wide range of sounds, “from basic squawks, to seemingly mechanical noises, to melodious whistles, to sounds that don’t involve their voices at all.” Watch and listen:

Bonus: There’s a sound gallery, and on this site, there’s more from the Cornell Lab.

There are more birds of paradise on TKSST.

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