Bird Families

Imperial bird of paradise - Paradisaea guilielmi, species


viewImperial bird of paradiseParadisaea guilielmiCabanis
genusParadise BirdParadisaeaLinnaeus
familyBirds of paradiseParadisaeidae
suborder / suborderSingersOscines
detachment / orderPasserinesPasseriformes
superorder / superorderNew Sky Birds (Typical Birds)NeognathaePycroft1900
infraclassReal birds (Fan-tailed birds)NeornithesGadow1893
subclassCilegrud Birds (Fan-tailed Birds)Carinatae Ornithurae (Neornithes) Ornithurae (Neornithes)Merrem1813
subtype / subdivisionVertebrates (Cranial)Vertebrata (Craniata)Cuvier1800
type / departmentChordatesChordata
supertypeCoelomic animalsCoelomata
sectionBilaterally symmetrical (Three-layer)Bilateria (Triploblastica)
subkingdomMulticellular animalsMetazoa

Legless bird of paradise

The Latin name for the great bird of paradise is literally translated as “legless paradise”. The name reflects the belief that birds of paradise have no legs. For the first time these birds (in the form of skins) came to Europe in 1522, when the ship "Victoria" returned from the first ever voyage around the world by Fernand Magellan. The crew brought with them a lot of spices and unusual things, including bird skins of amazing beauty and extraordinary feathers. It was surprising for Europeans of those times that the skins of birds did not have bones and flesh, including wings and legs. The Europeans then did not yet know how to preserve the skins of birds for a long time, they only removed the entrails from the birds they had caught, and soaked the rest of the body with salt and vinegar. The dressing of birds of paradise was distinguished by the removal of all bones, muscles and entrails, sometimes - wings and legs, by smoking the skin over a fire. Such skillful workmanship was the cause of amazement and gave rise to many legends.

The Spanish naturalist Francisco Lopez de Gomara, who studied the wonderful skins brought back, came to the conclusion that their owners eat dew and nectar and are not subject to decomposition. Where do these amazing creatures come from? Already in the "History of Animals" (Historiae animalium, 1551-1587) the Swiss scientist Konrad Gesner, there is an answer to this question: "In the Moluccas, people claim that these beautiful birds, who never sit on the ground or anything else, were born in Paradise". In fact, there were no large birds of paradise in the Moluccas (there are two other species - the pennant bird of paradise and the paradise crow). But it was the local sultan who presented the skins to the participants of the round-the-world expedition, which were brought to him from other islands.

Legends about unusually beautiful birds with divine abilities (longevity or rebirth from the dead, participation in the creation of the world) have long existed in many cultures. The Greek Phoenix, Egyptian Bennu, Persian Simurg, Slavic Firebird and many other mythical creatures excited the minds of people long before Magellan's expedition. The elegant and fantastic idea of ​​semi-mythical birds from the Garden of Eden, which live far beyond the seas and oceans, turned out to be too attractive and for many years turned a blind eye to the truth of researchers.

People began to reflect on the lifestyle of these unearthly creatures. Some believed that birds of paradise floated in the air all their lives. Another version is that they still sometimes rest, winding the thin threads of their feathers around the branches. It was also believed that the female lays eggs on the male, and he serves her as a living flying nest.

Antonio Pigafetta, a member of the expedition around the world that made it possible to discover the Pacific Ocean and the birds of paradise, described the birds of paradise relatively realistically, indicating that they have legs, but no wings, and they never fly without wind, and mentioning that the natives call these creatures "The birds of God." After Gesner and de Gomard, naturalist Karl Clusius began to study skins and found that birds were not so unusual - at least during life they consisted of flesh and blood. Clusius wrote about this discovery in his book on tropical animals.But the more real part of Pythaguetta's description and Clusius's statement went unheeded, as did similar remarks by other naturalists.

Even in the 18th century, the legend of birds from paradise continued to exist in scientific circles. The brilliant naturalist Georges-Louis de Buffon believed in the existence of an ethereal being that feeds exclusively on celestial dew. Karl Linnaeus, who introduced the binomial nomenclature into biological systematics, called the bird Paradisaea apoda - “paradise legless”, this name still remains for the species.

Only in the 19th century was the idea of ​​the divine nature of birds of paradise finally dispelled. In 1825, René Lesson, a French physician and naturalist, put an end to this story. During a brief stay of the frigate "Shell" (Coquille, later renamed "Astrolabe", see French ship Astrolabe) in New Guinea, he saw live birds of paradise with his own eyes, got acquainted with the aborigines, learned about the methods of catching birds and dressing skins and destroyed the beautiful the legend of birds from paradise. His book on the birds of paradise laid the foundation for their research in nature. In 1862, Alfred Russell Wallace, who at the same time with Charles Darwin came to the idea of ​​natural selection, brought to Europe for the first time two living birds of paradise - two males of the small bird of paradise (Paradisaea minor). The birds lived in the London Zoo for several years, became tame and even ate food from their hands.

Such beautiful and unusual skins and feathers of birds of paradise inevitably began to come into fashion, they were used to decorate ladies' hats. They hunted mainly for males with lush plumage, and dimly colored females and young individuals were not of interest. The volume of poultry production increased and by the 1920s reached 60-120 thousand skins of various species per year. It became clear that at such a pace, these unusual birds will soon really move to paradise.

The first conservation measures were initiated in 1908 in the British part of New Guinea, and from 1924 any commercial use of birds of paradise became illegal. Along with state environmental protection measures, an interesting private initiative was implemented. In the early 20th century, Sir William Ingram bought Little Tobago in the Caribbean to save the great birds of paradise from the skin traders. In September 1909, 48 juveniles from the Aru Islands were brought to Little Tobago on a German liner.

This conservation initiative might have borne fruit, but Hurricane Flora in 1963 made a difference. In 1966, only seven individuals were counted on the island, and now they are probably not at all. Fortunately, even the failure to relocate to Little Tobago did not become critical - the hat business began to fade away, and birds of paradise have almost ceased to be hunted since the 1930s. This is likely due to changes in the views of Europeans and Americans - in sophisticated circles, wearing dead birds of paradise as accessories was no longer considered acceptable. Currently, large birds of paradise still inhabit the Aru Islands and southwestern New Guinea and are not threatened.