Animals of West Papua Province in Indonesia are famous for their exceptional features. Birds of paradise are no exception, thanks to their spectacular plumes. Known as cenderawasih in Indonesian, the birds’ elusive beauty makes them curious subjects of scientific studies and photography projects.
Birds of Paradise Species in West Papua
The birds of paradise were grouped under Paradisaeidae family, which consists of about 45 species that are spread in Papua New Guinea, eastern Indonesia, and eastern Australia. Most of these species live in New Guinea Island, and some of the most striking ones make West Papua their homes.
Several species that live in West Papua include:
- Red bird of paradise
Red bird of paradise (Paradisaea rubra) is a medium-sized species, with size up to 13 inches (33 centimeters). The males have a green face with a pair of tail wires shaped like corkscrews. They usually have red stripes on their breasts, and bright decorative plumes on the heads. The females are smaller and less colorful.
Red bird of paradise is an endemic species of West Papua. The birds mostly live in Batanta and Waigeo Islands in Raja Ampat.
- Twelve-wired bird of paradise
Twelve-wired bird of paradise (Seleucidis melanoleucus) got its unique name from twelve thin filaments at the base of its body. The filaments sweep forward and upward, covering about the quarter of the bird’s lower body part. This characteristic is only present in the male species. Male birds also have bright yellow plumes, but the females are brown and lack of wire-like filaments on their bodies.
Twelve-wired birds of paradise can be found in many rainforest areas of Papua New Guinea. However, in West Papua, many of these birds live in Salawati Island, Raja Ampat.
- Wilson’s bird of paradise
Wilson’s bird of paradise (Diphyllodes respublica) is another West Papuan endemic avian, and famous for the bright blue speck on its head. The males have red, black, and yellow plumes, with two black twines that swirl at the ends. The females also have a blue speck on their heads, but their plumes are brown.
Wilson’s birds of paradise mostly live in hill and lowland rainforests in Batanta and Waigeo Islands, sharing habitats with red birds of paradise. The bird’s last scientific name, respublica, was famously given by the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, Lucien Bonaparte, who was a republic idealist.
- King bird of paradise
King bird of paradise (Cicinnurus regius) is the smallest member of Paradisaeidae family, only about 6.2 inches (16 centimeters), but its splendid colors make up for the size. Male birds have crimson plumes with a white breast and fan-shaped green feathers that rest on their shoulders. They also have wire-like filaments at the bottom.
King birds of paradise mostly live in various areas in New Guinea Island, including West Papua.
- Magnificent birds of paradise
Magnificent birds of paradise (Diphyllodes magnificus) are famous for their complex plume shades, with the combination of bright yellow, blue, and green. Males birds have unique curved “tails” made of colorful feathers. The females are brown with buff bottoms, and they have no curved tails.
Magnificent birds of paradise live in many parts of the New Guinea Island, including West Papua. Their sizes are about 10.2 inches (26 centimeters).
- Splendid astrapia
Splendid astrapia is one of the most elusive members of Paradisaeidae family. They are famous for iridescent green plumes with yellow specks, red breast, and dark blue speck on their throats. The females are less splendid, with a black head and brown plumes. The bird’s size is around 15.3 inches (39 centimeters).
These birds may live in the central part of Papua New Guinea and West Papua, although the exact spread is still studied.
Birds of paradise have omnivorous diets that consist of fruits, insects, snails, and other invertebrates. Some larger birds may consume small frogs, while the smaller birds (especially the ones with long, thin beaks) also consume nectar.
Some of these birds, such as Splendid astrapia, king birds of paradise, and magnificent birds of paradise are not considered as endangered or threatened. However, many birds of paradise species are under constant threats of hunting and deforestation.
Birds of Paradise and Natural Tourism Potentials
Birds of paradise have attracted not only scientists and photographers, but also travelers. Colorful plumes, beautiful visage, and unique mating rituals make these birds amazing sights to behold in the wild. Various birding and photography tour services around the world offer trip to forests in West Papua to seek and capture the images of these birds.
Birds of paradise also have significant meaning for Indonesians. They are the unofficial symbols of eastern Indonesia nature, such as in Maluku and West Papua. The birds have adorned stamps and even Rupiah bill. Various forest conservation efforts have been made to protect the birds, which later give positive impact to their rainforest habitats.
West Papua is a land full of exotic animals, and birds of paradise are probably among the most amazing-looking ones in this Indonesian province.