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King Bird-of-paradise

Cicinnurus regius

The King bird-of-paradise, a veritable jewel of the forest, is the smallest and most vibrantly colored member of the bird-of-paradise family. This diminutive avian wonder is adorned with a resplendent metallic crimson plumage, which may appear slightly orange under certain lighting conditions. The male is particularly striking with his green-tipped fan-like shoulder plumes and central tail feathers that extend into ornate, wiry spirals.

Identification Tips

Males of the species can be identified by their vivid crimson coloration, with a narrow, dark green iridescent breast band and whitish lower breast. Their olive-brown mantle and undertail feathers are tipped with iridescent green, and their legs are a striking violet hue. The bill is an ivory-yellow. Females, in contrast, are more subdued with dull olive heads and upperparts, yellowish underparts, and similarly violet legs.

Habitat

The King bird-of-paradise favors the lowland rainforests, gallery forests, forest edges, and occasionally ventures into disturbed and tall secondary forests. They are also known to inhabit the majority of the lowland New Guinea mainland and surrounding islands.

Distribution

This species is widespread across New Guinea and its western satellite islands, including Aru, Salawati, Missol, and Yapen. Some populations are found in the hills and lower mountains, although these are less well-documented.

Behaviour

The King bird-of-paradise is known for its elusive nature, often remaining inconspicuous except when males are performing their elaborate courtship displays at designated display trees.

Courtship and Breeding

The King bird-of-paradise engages in a polygynous mating system, with males performing solitary or group displays at traditional arboreal courts. Their courtship rituals are a spectacle of vocalizations, feather displays, and acrobatics, including inverted hanging and pendulum-like swinging. The female constructs a tree cavity nest, lays two eggs, and rears the young unassisted. In captivity, incubation has been observed to last 17 days, with a nestling period of 14 days.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet primarily consists of fruits and arthropods. These birds forage at all levels of the forest, often joining mixed-species flocks in search of arthropods in the lower forest strata.

Conservation Status

Despite concerns about habitat loss and hunting pressures, the King bird-of-paradise is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. This is due to its abundance and extensive range, although the population trend is suspected to be in decline. The species is also listed in Appendix II of CITES.

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