Bird Of Paradise (genus paradisea, Linn.), a name given to a group of moderate-sized, cone-billed birds of the Malay archipelago, noted for the extraordinary development of the plumage, its extreme delicacy, and brilliant colors. The genus is characterized by a long, strong bill, with the culmen curved to the emarginated tip, and the sides compressed; the nostrils lateral and covered by short feathers which conceal the base of the mandible; the wings long and rounded, with the 4th and 5th quills equal and longest; the tail is of various lengths, even or rounded; the tarsi as long as the middle toe, robust and covered by a single lengthened scale; the toes very long and strong, the outer larger than the inner, and united at the base, the hind toe long and robust; the claws long, strong, much curved and acute; the sides of the body, neck, breast, tail, and sometimes the head, ornamented with prolonged showy feathers. These birds are active and lively in their movements, and are usually seen on the tops of high trees, though they descend in the morning and evening to the lower branches to search for food, and to hide in the thick foliage from the heat of the sun.
The food consists chiefly of the seeds of the teak tree, and of a species of fig; they also devour grasshoppers and other insects, stripping off the wings and legs before swallowing them; in confinement they will eat boiled rice, plantains, and similar food. Their cry is loud and sonorous, the notes being in rapid succession; the first four notes are said by Mr. Lay to be clear, exactly intonated, and very sweet, while the last three are repeated in a kind of caw, resembling those of a crow or daw, though more refined. - The best known species is the greater paradise bird (P. apoda, Linn.), whose body is about as large as a thrush, though the thick plumage makes it appear as large as a pigeoo; it is about 12 inches long, the bill being 1 1/2 inch. The head, throat, and neck are covered with very short dense feathers, of a pale golden color on the head and hind part of the neck, the base of the bill being surrounded with black velvety ones, with a greenish gloss; the fore part of the neck is green gold, with the hind part, back, wings, and tail chestnut; the breast chestnut, inclining to purple.
Beneath the wings spring a large number of feathers, with very loose webs, some 18 inches long, resembling the downy tufts of feather grass; these are of different colors, some chestnut and purplish, others yellowish, and a few nearly white. From the rump spring two middle tail feath-ers, without webs except for the first few inches and at the tip, and nearly three feet in length; the remaining tail feathers are about 6 inches long, and even at the end. The natives call this bird manuk-dewata, or "bird of the gods," from which perhaps the common name is derived. The Malay traders, who first brought them from Papua, cutoff the legs of these birds, and pretended that 'they lived in the air, buoyed up by their light plumage, never descending to the ground, and resting at night suspended from the trees by the long tail feathers; hence their specific name. Other fable., such as that they fed on the morning dew, batched their eggs out between the shoulders, and came from the "terrestrial paradise" wire added in order to increase the value of these beautiful birds in the Indian markets.
From the nature of their plumage they cannot fly except against the wind; when the feathers get disordered by a contrary breeze they fall to the ground, from which they cannot readily rise; in this way many are caught; others are taken by bird lime, or shot by blunt arrows, or so stupefied by cocculus Indicus as to be caught by the hand. When at rest they seem to be very proud of their beauty, carefully picking from their feathers every particle of dust. They are shy and difficult of approach. Batavia and Singapore are the chief ports whence these birds are exported to Europe; the Bughis of Celebes bring great numbers of them thither in their boats from Papua and the Arroo group. The whole bird is a highly coveted ornament for the heads of the East Indian grandees, as well as for the bonnets of the civilized fair sex. - The P. Papuana (Bechst.) is a smaller bird, of the same general appearance, with the throat and neck before green; top of the head, nape, and neck ferruginous yellow; back yellow with a grayish tinge; breast, belly, and wings chestnut.
This and the preceding species are said to fly in flocks, led by a king who flies higher than, the rest. - The P. rubra (Vieill.) is about 9 inches long, and principally characterized by the fine red color of the sub-axillary feathers, and the two long, slender, ribbon-like shafts. - Since the time of Linnaeus the genus paradisea has been subdivided into several others. To the genus cicinnurus belongs the king paradise bird (C. regius), about 7 inches long; it has the head, neck, back, tail, and wings purplish chestnut, with the crown approaching to yellow and the breast to blood-red, all with a satiny gloss; on the breast is a broad bar of brilliant green, below which the belly is white; the subaxillary feathers are grayish white, tipped with shining green; the middle tail feathers are spirally coiled, with the webs of a glossy green color. The superb paradise bird (bophorina atra, Vieill.) has a black crest, with the head, hind neck, and back of a greenish gold color, of a velvety appearance, and overlying each other like the scales of a fish; the wings a dull deep black; tail black, with a blue gloss, and even at the end; throat changeable violet; belly bright golden green; subaxillary plumes black and velvety, rising upon the back and resembling a second pair of wings.
The gold-breasted paradise bird (Parotia sexpennis, Vieill.) is also crested; the top of the head, cheeks, and throat changeable violet black; fore neck and breast brilliant changeable green; back deep black, with a violet gloss; wings and tail black; the subaxillary feathers are long and black, with loose webs like those of an ostrich; on each side of the head are three long feathers, .webless except at the end, where they are spread into an oval form. - Mr. A. R. Wallace, in his "Malay Archipelago," describes and figures 18 species which are called paradise birds. Of these one of the most remarkable is the magnificent bird of paradise (diphyllodes speciosa), the generic name being derived from the double mantle which covers the back. It is of a general rufous color above, and of brilliant green below, with a tuft of beautiful yellow feathers on the hind neck, marked at the end by a black spot. A more rare and beautiful species (D. Wilsonii) has been described by Mr. Cassin from the Philadelphia academy museum. The standard-wing (semioptera Wallacei, Gray), discovered by Mr. Wallace, is characterized by a pair of long white feathers, arising from the short ones at the bend of the wings.
These feathers, like all the others in this remarkable family, are erectile. - The long-billed birds of paradise, more nearly allied to the hoopoes, constitute the family of epima-chidce. The most beautiful is the 12-wired paradise bird (seleucides alba, Less.); it is a native of Papua, and is distinguished by a splendid green band across the breast, by,the silky softness of the white feathers, and by 12 wiry appendages prolonged from the plumes on the sides. The long-tailed paradise bird (epimachus magnus) has the tail more than 2 feet long, glossed with most beautiful colors, and broad plumes springing from the sides of the breast Several other birds, of exquisite plumage, Intermediate between the above families, are described by Mr. Wallace. - No description ran give any idea of the graceful forms and brilliant hues of the paradise birds; our own beautiful humming birds come nearest to them in fairy-like structure of their plumage, and in the gorgeous, metallic, and ever-changing lustre of their colors.
Greater Paradise Bird (Paradisea apoda).
Red Bird of Paradise (Paradi-soa rubra).
King Bird of Paradise (Cicinnurus regius).
Superb Bird of Paradise (Lophorina atra).
Gold-breasted Bird of Paradise (Parotia sexpennis).
Twelve-wired Paradise Bird (Seleucides alba).
Long-tailed Paradise Bird (Epima-chus magnus).
See Bird of Paeadise.