National Geographic : 1950 Feb
273 Strange Courtship of Birds of Paradise and the male spent his time feeding the female through the wire. Every time he passed her a small bit of fruit, he seemed to leave his bill open purposely afterward, as if to impress her with the greenish color of the lining. Both birds had an amusing habit of tossing the food into the air and then catching it again to eat it, the bill sometimes making a loud snap. The twelve-wired bird of paradise is found all over coastal New Guinea and the neighboring island of Salawati. It is the one bird of paradise which frequents sago palm swamps and brackish mangrove areas near the sea. Dr. Francis Henry Hill Guillemard, in his account of New Guinea in the 1880's, re ported that the natives caught twelve-wires for him by slipping up to their roosting places at night and putting a cloth over the quarry's head. This story seems no harder to believe than the one my boys told me about catching six-plumes by hanging a loop of string over a branch (page 247). Either catching paradise birds is incredibly simple, if you are an agile Papuan, or else they still know how to tell good stories in New Guinea. Six-plumed Bird of Paradise, Page 257 These birds are so named because of the six long barbless plumes that stand straight away from the back of the male's head. Each plume is tipped with a small racquet. Six-plumed birds of paradise are moun tain dwellers, about as big as a magpie, belonging to the genus Parotia. They are found all over the main island of New Guinea at altitudes never lower than about 3,000 feet, and usually considerably higher. In color they are very uniform. Adult males are always velvety black, with a small metallic shield of feathers, glinting bronze, green, and amber in the sun, on the breast. Just behind the bill, on the crown of the head, there is a small tuft of feathers which varies from silver to gold among the different species. These stand erect when the bird is excited. Females are always dull brown with black barring, as are young males. The bill is short, as is the tail in all except one species. Wahnesi, from the eastern mountains, has a tail as long as the body. The six-plumed makes strange harsh cries. When mine were first caught in the Tamrau Mountains, they shrieked so incessantly that I could hardly bear it. It was worse than the squealing of a hundred stuck pigs. When they screamed in this way, the jungle was still, as if all the birds and animals were waiting and listening, and there were never any answering calls. A more normal call has been described as "prat prat" and is heard very early in the morning, almost the first of all bird calls. National Geographic Photogral)her IIowll Walker At Last the Rare Ribbon-tail Greets the Public None had been seen alive outside New Guinea's central highlands until 1948 when E. J. L. Hallstrom, of Sydney, Australia, flew in and obtained this and other males for his suburban Sydney aviary. He feeds them fruit, grated carrot, boiled egg, ground-up dog biscuit, meat-meal, and meal worms. Feather "trains" are two feet long (page 266).