A fallen tree in a forest may seem unremarkable—but to some birds of paradise, it’s the ideal stage for a mating dance. Edwin Scholes, who runs Cornell’s Birds-of-Paradise Project, and Tim Laman, a biologist and National Geographic photographer, were doing research in the Arfak Mountains of western New Guinea. When they found a downed log and set up a camera in hopes of catching a courtship display.
The bird that appeared was different from others of its species, says Scholes. Its feathers fanned into a unique crescent shape, and it had distinctive moves, “like a Latin dance where all the motion is below the hips”. What he and Laman observed confirmed a previous discovery of genetic variation. Last year they announced a new species. The Vogelkop superb bird of paradise. Such sightings may benefit the region, says Scholes, by encouraging ecotourism that provides a “new economic incentive to keep the forest intact.”
The birds-of-paradise are members of the family Paradisaeidae of the order Passeriformes. The majority of this species are found in eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and eastern Australia. The family has 42 species in 15 in general. Birds of paradise tend to be solitary birds and only come together to mate.