The Wilson’s bird of paradise is a small, exotic bird that can only be found on Waigeo and Batanta islands in Indonesia. This colorful bird lives primarily in lowland rainforests but can also survive at higher altitudes in mountain forests. It’s named the “Wilson’s” bird of paradise because Napoleon’s nephew used the term to describe an unknown bird purchased by British naturalist Edward Wilson. Due to logging and forest fires, much of this species’ wild habitat is shrinking, putting them as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.

Wilson’s bird of paradise is an omnivore and its diet consists mainly of fruit and small insects. It’s pretty small itself and only reaches 8.3 inches (21cm) in length and 1.8 to 2.2 ounces (51-62g) in weight. The turquoise yamaka he seems to be sporting on his head isn’t made up of feathers, but is actually bare skin. The male approaches mating with a lot of panache by performing a very special dance routine to attract the female’s attention from May to June and then again in October. Before the dance, he carefully clears the ground from any leaves or other obstacles that might disturb his illustrious performance.

As the dance begins, he moves into the spot with the best sun and strikes a pose which is a dramatic frozen posture. His next dance move is to try to catch the attention of a female and impress her by exposing his beautiful breasts. This seems a bit backward, but like most birds, the male is more colorful, so it actually makes sense in the end. The show moves to a display of his head and tail feathers, belting out a special song, and closes with the sexy display of the inner part of his mouth. This is apparently an alluring light green color that creates a stunning finale that always makes the ladies swoon.

About the Doodlewash

M. Graham watercolors: Cobalt Teal, Cobalt Blue, Pyrrol Red, Burnt Sienna, Quinacridone Gold, Ultramarine Blue, and Neutral Tint. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon black ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal

Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

48 replies on “The Wilson’s Bird of Paradise

  1. great illustration and info on the bird Charlie. you do make the breeding habits seem quite entertaining !!
    I must confess, his bald head is rather off putting – he’s not a pretty bird, To Humans – and cobalt teal blue on his head has scared me off my fav color!! lol

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The rabbi bird does the traditional Jewish party dance for the pretty girls. Good grief! (Actual translation is, “Oh woe is me,” but the phrase can be used in myriad exclamatory situations.)
        You used the word yamaka so I thought you might know more. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Charlie, I can just imagine the females waving pretty little paper fans in front of them as they swoon! Thank goodness for the cute curly tail feathers because the head is downright ugly. He certainly has striking colors though, and you made him look ready for the show. 😄

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  3. Fantastic – the colours of both feather and skin are incredible! And translated fluently in doodlewash, as I’d expect. I’ve just been watching some footage of the bird courting/flashing his breasts and it’s amazing how particularly those tail feathers shimmer in the light. The female would have to be pretty unobservant to miss his display, with all those colours. But indeed, this chap takes no chances, and clearly has all the right moves. I am taking notes!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, I should totally do a video! Like a dating video but infinitely better. However, I fear this would not end well, for it’d go viral and then I’d have scores of people successfully attracted; how am I to pick one from so many candidates?(‘candidates’ – how romantic!) Maybe best to resist the temptation 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I like the two blues on this bird’s body and the fact they marry well with the surrounding red. It’s amazing how skin color also serves a purpose in birds.

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  5. I am amazed and entertained by your description of this birds eccentric performance Charlie. Such a ladies man, charmer and flirt, right up to the finale and the big reveal. Wowzers. And all under a spotlight too!! 🙂 They certainly do know how to put on a show! Good visuals Charlie!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful painting, you captured the startling, if not stunning, beauty of your subject. These are such gorgeous and vibrant birds. As always your description of your subject’s behavior is delightfully amusing, I do hope the species manages to dance out of harm’s way.

    Liked by 1 person

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