The Wilson’s Bird of Paradise

Wilson's Bird of Paradise Doodlewash - exotic bird from Indonesia watercolor sketch

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

Profile photo of 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! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!
48 Comments
  1. debiriley 1 year ago

    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

    • Author

      Thanks Debi! 😃💕Lol…yeah…I think my hasty and too quick doodlewash managed to make him less attractive than he really is. But he’s super odd looking still… hehe… What?! Cobalt Teal bald spots don’t inspire you?! Haha

      • debiriley 1 year ago

        well, yeah, but hey, its not that YOU did a hasty job!! he just isnt a ‘pretty bird’ 🙂

      • Author

        Yeah…Nature really colored outside the lines with this one! Lol

      • debiriley 1 year ago

        thats just funny Charlie!!!! 🙂

  2. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 1 year ago

    I get it – the rabbi bird does the hora for the shayna maidens! Oy vey iz mir!

    • Author

      Haha Sharon! 😃 But, of course, I only understood like two words of that comment!!😊 Lol

      • Sharon Bonin-Pratt 1 year ago

        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

      • Author

        Lol! “Oy vey” I knew without the last bit! I know enough things to sound smart, but still too few to actually be clever! 😉

  3. Jodi 1 year ago

    what a charmer – not – lol! GREAT doodlewash – and fascinating info!

    • Author

      Haha…thanks Jodi!! 😃💕What?! No sex appeal here? It’s likely just because I failed to show the inside of his mouth. That’s the real charm!

  4. Carol 1 year ago

    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. 😄

    • Author

      Thanks Carol!! 😃💕 Hehe…they are less homely in real life, I think. Not sure I captured this one well….hehe…but the bald blue head is still freaky. Guess it’s what the lady birds with their fans love though! lol

  5. Jacob 1 year ago

    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!

    • Author

      Thanks Jacob!! 😃 hehe…yeah…it’s a pretty awesome display. And it’s good to know that in a world now filled with man buns that this guy is bringing bald back. So you’re studying up, eh? Yay! Do the dance! And make sure it’s also captured on video! 😉👍🏻

      • Jacob 1 year ago

        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 😉

      • Author

        No! No! Definitely do the video!! You never know until you try! 😉hehe

  6. Teri C 1 year ago

    What a beauty. Well, his colors are beautiful but he is a little ugly. 😄

  7. Kari 1 year ago

    What an unusual bird! Love the colors! I love the mating ritual dance! I bet it’s quite a show! I hope the top of his head doesn’t get sunburned!

    • Author

      Thanks Kari!! 😃💕 That’s an intriguing thought! I never saw whether or not they need to wear more sunscreen! Haha…must google more!

  8. Sharon Mann 1 year ago

    Oh my what a strange bird, I do like his curly tail. Beautifully painted Charlie.

  9. Love it Charlie, got to check it out now on YouTube, I need to see this romantic dance 😀

    • Author

      Thanks Rebecca!! 😃💕I just might have over described the dance for dramatic effect😊haha…but it’s still interesting!!

  10. The Leaf Diary 1 year ago

    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.

    • Author

      Thanks!! 😃 Yeah…birds are so fascinating…the colors they come in are often so incredible. Hard sometimes to get them all across in a doodlewash!

  11. memadtwo 1 year ago

    He does seem to be costumed well for dancing. Great description, and, as always, doodlewash. (K)

    • Author

      Thanks Kerfe! 😃💕Yeah…he’s definitely got a perfect costume, even down to the cool interior mouth paint! Hehe

  12. Cathe 1 year ago

    What an exotic bird! So strange and cool. Beautiful and vibrant doodlewash Charlie!

    • Author

      Thanks Cathe!! 😃💕Glad you liked this one…I was moving pretty fast with this so I think it’s a bit prettier bird than I rendered…but still kind of strange! Lol

      • Cathe 1 year ago

        But so cool and weird!

  13. Carmel Campbell 1 year ago

    What a colorful character! The curled feathers on his tail is what would attract me…if I was a bird!

  14. Awesome! Love the colors 🙂

  15. Susan Feniak 1 year ago

    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!

  16. Jill Kuhn 1 year ago

    Wow! What a colorful bird! I’d love to see his dance – I will have to google it! 😃 I bet this one was fun to doodlewash! 💕🎨🌟

    • Author

      Thanks Jill!! 😃💕It was fun, but I made him a bit darker than I wanted…though he does look this dark! Hehe….definitely check out the dance! 😉

      • Jill Kuhn 1 year ago

        I did – and had my cat watch the video too! Hehe! 🐱🐦❤️ The bird’s tail is really amazing! 😃

      • Author

        Haha!! That’s awesome! ❤️I’m sure your cat was equally impressed with his dance moves!! 😃

  17. itsmyhusbandandme 1 year ago

    He sounds like a real dandy – you’ve painted him colours to match. Love it.
    JP

  18. artandmoondreams 1 year ago

    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.

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