A member of that most captivating group of birds: the birds of paradise. Only known from ornamental skins in the past that had their wings and feet removed to show off the decorative plumes even better, people believed these birds must have come from paradise for they could apparently fly without wings and perch without feet. And even decades later when we knew much better, the Great bird of paradise got its scientific name of Paradisaea apoda –
the “Paradise bird without legs”.
This Twelve-wired bird of paradise is something special as well. Most obvious are of course those odd wires sticking out of the male’s behind, used to caress the female during courtship. Even though they are twelve in number they do not originate from the tailfeathers, but rather from the bright yellow flank feathers. Which are also very special in their own way, because scientists have no idea how they are yellow. Usually yellows, reds and oranges in plumage are caused by carotenes, a pigment like melanin. But when a Twelve-wired bird of paradise dies, his feathers turn white, and also in captivity they need a highly specialised diet to stop them from bleaching out. Scientists still don’t know how this is possible, nor what does cause the yellow colour of the feathers.