Pteridophora alberti, or King-of-Saxony bird-of-paradise, is native to the rain forest regions of New Guinea. There are two main ranges, which run in a generally south-east line from the Weyland and Snow Mountains eastward to the Bismarck and Kratke Ranges, following the main tectonic division of the island. The larger of the two ranges of P. alberti is located more to the north, and covers much of the Weyland Mountains. The smaller, more circular range sits to the south-east. (Heads, 2002)
King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise are found exclusively in rain forests in the mountains of New Guinea from 1,500 to 2,750 m above sea level. These birds don’t require pristine forest; P. alberti can survive in lightly disturbed sections of rain forest and forest edges as well. (Frith and Frith, 1997; Heads, 2002)
Pteridophora alberti is a sexually dimorphic species. Mature male King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise are approximately 22 cm long and weigh 80 to 95 g. The head, chest and top of the body are black, with scale-like iridescent feathers on the chest, the underbody is buff-yellow. The wings have large ochre patches formed from the bases and leading edges of the primary feathers. The legs are grey-brown, the bill is black with a bright aqua-green gape. A feather shaft twice as long as the bird’s body (approximately 50 cm) sporting 40 to 50 flag-like structures are rooted behind each eye. These flags are bright blue on top, and red-brown underneath. ("King of Saxony bird of paradise", 2003; Frith and Frith, 1997)
Female P. alberti have off-white underbodies patterned with darker chevrons, while the tops of their bodies are grey-brown in color. There are also immature males that sport female-style plumage. Females weigh 68 to 88 g. (Frith and Frith, 1997)
King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise may be made up of 3 subspecies: Pteridophora a. alberti, P. a. burgersi, and P. a. hallstromi. The differences between these subspecies are mostly matters of subtle changes in coloration. However, these subspecies descriptions are not universally accepted. (Heads, 2002)
King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise are polygynous. The mating system is considered an "exploded lek" because males perform mating displays in their own spot, but there are generally many males in a large area where all are attempting to court females. (Frith and Frith, 1997; Hoglund and Sillen-Tullberg, 1994)
The courtship display of male King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise has two general parts. First, near dawn or in late afternoon, the male attracts a female by singing a hissing rattle while sitting on a bare branch in the canopy. He accompanies his song with synchronous or independent movements of his occipital plumes; the mantle cape and breast shield are also often held erect. The male usually turns repeatedly on his perch. When a female arrives, he flies down to vines in the understory, usually 2 or more meters from the forest floor. There, he perches below the female on a vine, bounces, and gives a hissing call, which is often accompanied by manipulations of the occipital plumes, erection of the mantle cape and breast shield, and, if the female appears disinterested, wing shivers. When approaching the female for copulation, the male wags his head from side to side while hopping up the vine. After copulation, the female leaves, and the male returns to his perch to attract another female. (Frith and Frith, 1997)
Courtship displays and nesting of Pteridophora alberti take place between September and April. Only one egg is laid per clutch; it is not known if more than one clutch is attempted per season. Incubation of this single egg appears to last longer than 22 days. Young P. alberti hatch and remain altricial for a period of time before fledging, but nestling and fledging periods are unknown. However, most species in the birds of paradise family fledge within 20 to 30 days of hatching. Age of sexual maturity is also unknown for this species, but sexual maturity usually takes 1 to 2 years for most birds of paradise. ("King of Saxony bird of paradise", 2003; Frith and Frith, 1997; "Bird of Paradise", 2008)
Only female P. alberti care for chicks. Other than the actual copulation event, males have no parental investment in the raising of young. Females build their own nests, and care for chicks by themselves, including providing food. (Frith and Frith, 1997)
King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise are generally solitary birds, other than during mating. Males are likely territorial, yet are known to group closer together than usual during displays, though the closeness of a true lek is not reached. They are diurnal. ("King of Saxony bird of paradise", 2003; Frith and Frith, 1997)
King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise communicate using mostly vocalizations, body posturing and movements. The male’s song has been described as a radio-static hiss, which increases in tempo and lessens in volume simultaneously. Songs last 4 to 5 seconds, and are repeated at one-minute intervals. Immature males give calls described as noisy descending churrs. Males courting females perform elaborate movements with their occipital plumes during their songs, as well as changing posture to better attract the female’s attention. Females convey interest or disinterest during displays using body posture as well. (Frith and Frith, 1992; Frith and Frith, 1997)
King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise are mainly frugivores. Approximately 80% of their diet consists of fruit; they tend to favor green fruits, especially false figs above most other fruits. They are also known to eat insects. Adult males forage mainly in the upper canopy, but females and males with female-plumage have been spotted in all levels of forest growth. (Beehler and Pruett-Jones, 1983; Frith and Frith, 1997)
King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise have no known predators. However, humans have been known to hunt them for their exquisite plumage. Eggs and nestlings may be preyed on by arboreal snakes or other birds. (Sillitoe, 1988; "Bird of Paradise", 2008)
The role of King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise in their montane rainforest habitats is not known, but it is likely that they aid in seed dispersal of the fruits they eat. (Diamond, 1986)
King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise have been hunted in the past for the striking occipital plumes sported by males, which were used in ladies’ hats in the late 1800’s into the 1930’s, when hunting of all birds-of-paradise was banned by both the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. There is currently little ecotourism in this area, but increased awareness of the existence of these birds may lead to more visits by humans in the future. (Diamond, 1986; "Bird of Paradise", 2008)
King-of-Saxony birds-of-paradise are not considered a threatened species. Although they are found only in a small range, they are common in that range and most areas it inhabits are not in danger of being severely altered at this time. ("IUCN Red List", 2007)
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Katherine Grzesiak (author), Northern Michigan University, Alec R. Lindsay (editor, instructor), Northern Michigan University.
Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
animals that live only on an island or set of islands.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
having more than one female as a mate at one time
rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
uses sight to communicate
Zoological Society of San Diego. 2008. "Bird of Paradise" (On-line). San Diego Zoo's Animal Bytes. Accessed April 12, 2008 at http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-bird_of_paradise.html.
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. 2007. "IUCN Red List" (On-line). Accessed April 11, 2008 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php/51207/all.
2003. King of Saxony bird of paradise. Pp. 498-499 in M Hutchins, J Jackson, W Bock, D Olendorf, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Birds VI, Vol. 11:, 2nd Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group.
Beehler, B., S. Pruett-Jones. 1983. Display dispersion and diet of birds of paradise: a comparison of nine species. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 13: 229-238.
Diamond, J. 1986. Biology of Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, Vol. 17: 17-37. Accessed April 04, 2008 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096987.
Frith, C., D. Frith. 1992. Annotated list of the birds of western Tari Gap, Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea, with some nidification notes. Australian Bird Watcher, 14: 262-272.
Frith, C., D. Frith. 1997. Courtship and Mating of the King of Saxony Bird of Paradise Pteridophora alberti in New Guinea with Comment on their Taxonomic Significance. EMU, 97: 185-193.
Heads, M. 2002. Birds of Paradise, Vicariance Biogeography, and Terrane Tectonics in New Guinea. Journal of Biogeography, Vol. 29 Issue 2: 261-283.
Hoglund, J., B. Sillen-Tullberg. 1994. Does Lekking Promote the Evolution of Male-Biased Size Dimorphism in Birds? On the Use of Comparative Approaches. The American Naturalist, Vol. 144 No. 6: 881-889. Accessed April 04, 2008 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/2463133.
Sillitoe, P. 1988. From Head-Dresses to Head-Messages: The Art of Self-Decoration in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Man, Vol. 23, No. 2: 298-318. Accessed April 04, 2008 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/2802807.