| December 29, 2013

Approximately 60% of all birds are included in the Passeriformes order. Most people are familiar with more common passerine birds such as the sparrow, crow, mockingbird, cardinal and grackle. At the other end of the spectrum in the same order of birds, are the little known, seldom displayed birds-of-paradise. Found in the South Pacific, particularly on the island of New Guinea and nearby island groups, they are considered by many to be the most beautiful birds in the world!

Paradisaeidae is one of the families in the Passeriformes order, which includes the birds-of-paradise – the glamour birds! Juvenile and female birds-of-paradise are usually drab in color, particularly when compared to the males that are known for their elaborate and long feathers that extend from the beak, wings, or head. Some sport capes or skirts and their tail adornments may look like wires, fans or whips. All this glamour is necessary to impress a female by demonstrating some of the most elaborate and bizarre displays found among birds. Their performance may be on branches, cleared staging areas on the ground or in a common lek space. All of the colorful plumage makes their dancing, charging, spinning, stiff posturing or hanging from limbs quite spectacular!

For those of you that normally enter and exit through the member’s door, make a trip up or down the General Admission entrance to see the additions to that area. Three species (Red, Raggiana and Lesser birds-of-paradise) add to the sights and sounds of the ramp. The Raggiana bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana) is also known as Count Raggi’s bird-of-paradise. Raggiana was named in honor of the Marquis Francis Raggi of Genoa. Males have a yellow crown, dark emerald-green throat and a yellow collar between the throat and its blackish-brown upper breast feathers. The ornamental flank plumes vary from red to orange in color. It is adorned with a pair of long black tail wires. The Raggiana, national bird of Papua New Guinea, is silhouetted on their national flag.

The male Red bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rubra), so named for its red tail feathers, has an emerald-green face and pompon-like curved feathers over its eyes. The upper back, upper breast and upper wings are shades of pale orangish-yellow in color. The beak is yellow, legs are gray and a pair of black tail wires are somewhat “corkscrew” in shape.

The male Lesser bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea minor) has an emerald-green throat and lores, yellow head and back, yellow crown with darker yellow on upper back becoming brownish-maroon with some yellow edging on wing-coverts. The underside is burgundy-brown, paler on under wing- and tail-coverts; ornamental flank plumes are yellow, turning somewhat white near tips. Two reddish-brown tail wires become almost black near tips. The Lesser is somewhat similar to the Raggiana but can be identified by the color of its display flank feathers and it does not have the yellow collar.

Passeriformes is also the largest order of birds at The Dallas World Aquarium and we hope you enjoy the recent additions of the flamboyant birds-of-paradise.

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