The King of Saxony bird-of-paradise is a creature of such unique and dazzling beauty that it seems almost otherworldly. It is a rare gem of the natural world. So, come with me on a journey of discovery as we uncover the amazing facts and characteristics that make the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise one of the most remarkable creatures on the planet.
1. They own unique appearance
The Pteridophora genus is exclusively represented by the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise. This is one of the world’s weirdest birds with its lengthy decorative head plumes. This characteristic is so weird that the birds were once believed to be a fabrication. You can only find these distinctive plumes on mature males.
The adult male King of Saxony bird-of-paradise boasts a glossy black color on its head, mantle, and back. These parts also have a shimmering bronze-green sheen, particularly on the mantle’s extended feathers.
Their chin and throat are also velvety black, while the rest of the underparts are dark yellow. The flanks are whitish in color.
However, the male’s most remarkable characteristic is the presence of two scalloped, enamel-blue brow plumes. Each measures around 50 centimeters in length and is located behind the eyes. The birds can move these plumes independently.
You can differentiate between males and females by their appearance. Females exhibit a predominantly grey to sooty grey coloration on their head and upper body, with a slightly browner tone on the lower back. On the other hand, their throat, chin, and neck side are lighter with dark brownish-grey striping.
You may mistake these female birds for their young King of Saxony bird-of-paradise males because they look similar. However, these juveniles own red-brown eyes.
The adult male measures 22 cm in length, excluding head plumes, while the female is slightly smaller at 20 cm.
This bird species originate from the Central Ranges of New Guinea. It is found in two primary ranges that stretch in a southeast direction from the Weyland Mountains (Western New Guinea) to the Krathe Range (Papua New Guinea.)
Typically, these birds live in clearings, forest edges, montane forests, and trails situated between 1,500 and 2,750 meters in elevation, with a general range between 1,800 and 2,500 meters.
3. They are territorial
The King of Saxony bird-of-paradise is a species that tends to live a solitary life and avoid socializing with others, except for the breeding season. The adult males exhibit territorial behavior and often perch on tall trees to guard their territory. From there, they sing to compete with other males in adjacent territories.
This diurnal species remains active during the day and communicate primarily through body language and call notes lasting for 4-5 seconds. The male emits a radio-static hiss for its song, while the advertising song is a rapid and jumbled collection of insect-like notes that culminate in a brief chirp.
To woo females in the mating season, they use a variety of hissing sounds, including mews, chatters, squeaks, and soft, high-pitched clucks. The young bird makes noises in the form of a descending “churr.”
While generally not dangerous to humans, males can become aggressive if they feel threatened or if someone attempts to harm them.
The King of Saxony bird-of-paradise is mainly a frugivorous species that prefer green fruits (such as “false figs” and drupes) in the montane forests. They also eat arthropods and insects.
To look for invertebrates, they shred and prob at mosses or lichens and forage along mossy branches, fruits, epiphytes, and flowers.
While males forage mostly in the high canopy, the young and females search for food throughout the forest. They usually do it alone but do it in groups of 3-4 individuals at good feeding places.
During the breeding season of April to October or November, the adult male King of Saxony bird-of-paradise engages in polygynous behavior. They display in a specific location, either on open bare branches or in more hidden locations within the foliage. They defend their territory, and they sing to compete with their competitors.
When a female approaches, the male moves its occipital plumes up and down and erects its feathers on the breast and mantle. It then descends to an understorey vine to invite the female.
Here, the male strongly bounces on the vine, which causes the female, perched 50 centimeters above the male, to bounce as well. However, if the female loses interest, the male will rekindle it with the infantile wing shivering. After mating, the female departs while the male returns to his perch and display another mating dance to woo another female.
The female constructs the nest by herself, placing it in a tree branch fork at a height of 10-11 meters above the ground. She lays 1 egg and incubates it for about 22 days. After hatching, the chick stays in the nest for a while before taking its first flight. They attain sexual maturity at around one or two years old.
6. Status and conservation
Due to their distinct lengthy plumes, these King of Saxony bird-of-paradise birds are often hunted to use in ceremonial events by locals. Yet, it is widespread across the range, and the species is not threatened.