National Geographic : 2012 Dec
• even literal-minded scientists have called absurd. The brilliant plumes have been prized as decorative objects in Asia for thousands of years. Hunters who traded the rst specimens to Europeans in the 16th century o en removed the birds' wings and legs to emphasize plumes. is inspired a notion that they were literally the birds of the gods, oating through the heavens without ever alighting, gathering sustenance from the paradisiacal mists. In the 21st century Laman and Scholes set a goal of documenting the birds in a way that people have never seen them before: from the females' perspective. On Batanta Island, west of New Guinea, Laman climbed 165 feet into the rain forest canopy to photograph the mating ritual of the red bird of paradise. On the Huon Peninsula, 1,200 miles east, he mounted a cam- era pointing down from a tree branch to get a female's view of the colorful breast feathers and ballerina-like "tutu" of a male Wahnes's parotia. Though both men had experience in the A male magni cent ri ebird uses what Scholes calls "shape-shi ing" to impress a potential mate (above). Rapid head-wagging transforms the bird's iridescent breast shield into a glittering advertisement of sexual tness. n Society Grant This project was funded in part by your National Geographic Society membership, and through a partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.