Mainly found in rainforests or other densely vegetated areas, the male birds of paradise generally have large patches of bright iridescent colours. All are found in the east and north-east of Australia, but only the Paradise Riflebird Lophorina paradiseus and Victoria’s Riflebird L. victoriae are endemic. Both the Trumpet Manucode Phonygammus keraundrenii and Magnificent Riflebird L. magnificus, both restricted to Cape York in Australia, also occur to the north in New Guinea.
Birds of Paradise were so named, because the first specimens to reach Europe were skins that were sent as gifts from the Molluccas to the King of Spain. The Molluccans called the birds Bolon diuata, meaning birds of God. The skins were used by the Molluccans for ceremonial purposes, and during their preparation the legs and wings had been removed. This gave rise to a long held myth that these legless birds never came to earth, and that the female laid her eggs in a hollow on the males back.
The name ‘Riflebird’ is thought to have originated when the first specimen of the Paradise Riflebird was collected. One record, dating back to 1824, calls the bird ‘rifleman’, so-named as the bird was shot by a soldier at Port MacQuarie.
Scientific name: Paradisaeidae (family)