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Cendrawasih/Raggiana Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea raggiana)



Cendrawasih

Cendrawasih/Raggiana Bird of Paradise

Cendrawasih is the Indonesian word for the bird of paradise. The Raggiana bird of paradise (Paradisaea raggiana) is the national bird of New Guinea, and its figure graces everything from money to stamps to taxi cabs. Because they have such rare and beautiful plumage, birds of paradise have been hunted for centuries, and their feathers have been used for decoration and their supposed mystical properties. They are currently listed as endangered and trapping and export are illegal, but all species of the bird of paradise are still being traded illegally on the black market.

Interesting Fact: After trading plumes of birds of paradise with early European explorers, local tribes told them that the birds were the birds of the gods and never touched earth, feeding only on dew. This story accentuated the value of the birds for over 100 years, and the feathers were in such high demand that it almost killed off the species.

The cendrawasih is only found on the island of New Guinea. There are at least 37 other species of the bird of paradise that also make their homes on this island. The males are known to gather in a specific tree together in the morning and will engage in mutual display, where they fluff out their extensive colorful feathers to try and attract a female. They live in the tops of trees and in the underbrush, making nests in tree branches and holes.

Cendrawasih, or Birds of Paradise, are considered by many to be the most beautiful birds on the planet. The females are a relatively drab, dull brown, which helps them take cover when they are nesting and raising the young. They average about 13 inches in length (33 cm), about the size and build of a crow. The males are covered with different sizes and shapes of feathers in every conceivable color, and they often have patches of skin without feathers that are wild, shocking colors as well. The Raggiana has very long, orange, trailing tail feathers. His head and the nape of his neck are yellow, and he has a green chin.

Cendrawasih are primarily fruit eaters, but they will also eat berries, leaves, and small animals, such as lizards and frogs. Their flight is slow and ponderous, contrary to their graceful appearance, and they stay in the same area all year, not following any sort of migratory pattern.

Courtship is the main purpose of the cendrawasih’s gaudy appearance. The females outnumber the males, so the males must compete with each other to win favor of a female when she is ready to mate. The Raggiana especially is known for his overly energetic courtship dance. There are, however, some bird of paradise species that mate for life, and the males have drab brown feathers like the females and will help raise the young and tend the nest. Of the species that are polygamous, however, the female takes care of all nesting and raising duties, usually laying two eggs at a time.

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Bibliography:
Bird of Paradise. Encarta Encyclopedia, © 2000.
Great Bird of Paradise. Accessed August 15, 2004 at http://aviary.owls.com/bird_paradise/birdofparadise.html.
Birds of Paradise. Accessed August 15, 2004 at http://www.honoluluzoo.org/birds_of_paradise.htm.


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