Saxony is an area of Germany that hasn’t had a king since 1918. However, in the mountain forests of New Guinea, a bird has borne the name King of Saxony since 1894. It’s the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise (Pteridophora alberti).
The males display beautiful black and yellow colors. They also have two blue brow plumes attached to their heads that can be twice the length of the bird’s body. These birds are so strange-looking that when Europeans one for the first time, they thought it was a fake. Native people hunt the male birds for their prized plumes for ceremonial purposes. However, the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise is not easy to catch.
Adult males are highly territorial, guarding their domain while perched high in the tree canopy. Their unique courtship behavior consists of two parts. The first step is sitting on a bare branch and attracting females by singing a hissing rattling sound. It accompanies those noises by waving the long plumes independently or in unison. Next, if a female shows interest, the male will fly down to a lower branch to entice her. Then, the male will bounce up and down in front of the female while giving a hissing call. People find the entire ritual very entertaining.
Regardless of the threats they face from hunting, the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise is not endangered. That is beneficial for the ecology because these birds play a significant role in distributing fruit seeds on the island of New Guinea. Plants and fruits rely on animals to ensure their survival. In return, the plants produce fruit for the animals to eat in this marvelously complex system. Meanwhile, tourists to New Guinea enjoy these birds’ beauty and fascinating behavior.
The King of Saxony bird-of-paradise is a prime example of how each animal is unique, and the Creator has given us many species to study, enjoy, and protect. The interlocking system of birds, other animals, and plants shows evidence of a Creator who is an architect and engineer who has an appreciation of beauty and a sense of humor.
— Roland Earnst © 2022
The Cornel Lab of Ornithology has a video showing the song and dance of these fascinating birds.