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Birds of Paradise Mating Rituals
Episode 12621st December 2021 • My AP Biology Thoughts • Hopewell Valley Student Publications Network
00:00:00 00:05:34

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My AP Biology Thoughts  

Unit 8 Ecology 

EPISODE TITLE: Birds of Paradise Mating Rituals

Welcome to My AP Biology Thoughts podcast, my name is Xavier and I am with Celine and Sofie and we are your hosts for Unit 8 Ecology-Birds of Paradise Mating Rituals. Today we will be discussing Birds of Paradise Mating Rituals and how it relates to the AP Biology Curriculum. 

We want to thank our sources for the information presented in this podcast episode today which include National geographic and BBC Earth. You can find the citations and links to these sources in the show notes.

Segment 1: Overview of Bird  

  • The birds of paradise are some of the most fascinating birds in the world, from their wide range of behaviors and striking coloration of the males, I would love to ask you some specific questions about them. I have looked over many different species and their behavior, but I am particularly interested in the elaborate mating displays performed by male birds of paradise.
  • Of course, let me begin with a bit of background on the species. Birds of paradise are members of the family Paradisaeidae (Para-dice-see-a-die), which researchers think evolved on the island of New Guinea. The family is comprised of 43 species, most found on the island of New Guinea. Two species are found only in the Moluccan Islands to the west of New Guinea, and four others are found mainly in northeastern Australia. The family of birds includes astrapias, manucodes, paradisaeas, parotias, riflebirds, and sicklebills.

Segment 2: Evidence that supports Animal Behavior within the Birds of Paradise

  • I know many species of birds are sexually dimorphic but what does this mean for the bird-of-paradise 
  • Yes, this means the males and females have different appearances. So the males have elaborate feather patterns that they use in their mating displays while the females of these species have a more dull and camouflaged appearance 
  • So while the females are watching the Males perform these displays what is their key concern when choosing which male to mate with? 
  • The female choice appears to be based on the vigor of the males’ display meaning their physical strength and health. Which can be seen in the condition and color of his feathers. 
  • So the female chooses a vigorous mate, ensuring that her offspring will also be relatively healthy. 
  • Exactly, the strongest, most brightly-feathered males have a better chance of attracting the females, while less attractive males may be overlooked. 
  • I was most interested in a species of male Superb bird-of-paradise with their dark black cape feathers and almost like a “psychedelic smiley face.” The way he snaps his tail rhythmically slowly, flashing a breastplate of iridescent like feathers. I’m sure the female’s prefer their beautiful feathers.
  • Like I had mentioned it really depends on what the female wants to pass on to her children. This is their key concern when mating. Impressive as it is, the male’s beauty is impractical. Excessively long tail feathers might be great for attracting mates, but they aren’t exactly useful for survival. In fact, it’s easy to see how they might be a hindrance. 
  • So how did these features evolve seen as the males need them for mating but doesn’t survival play a role?
  • Well, when resources are plentiful and there are few predators, females don’t need the males to defend them, provide food, or help raise young. They can be picky when it comes to choosing a mate which leaves the males to work hard to impress the females. This is why sexual selection is so relevant in the bird-of-paradise

Segment 3: Connection to the Course

  • Now you may be thinking to yourself, how does this relate to the AP Bio Curriculum
  • Well...the birds of paradise mating ritual is a great example of courtship behavior 
  • This is a behavior that results in reproduction, and in this case specifically through the visual and auditory stimuli that birds provide to the females 
  • This behavior is innate meaning the animals don’t need to learn it, it just comes through genetics
  • Tieing back to the evolution unit as well, the elaborate plumage of the males is thought to have evolved through the evolutionary process of sexual selection
  •  Sexual selection can be shown by the females choosing mates on the basis of their desirable behavioral and anatomic traits, including color. After mating, the female returns to her nest and raises her offspring alone
  • Darwin’s theory of sexual selection suggests that traits can also evolve in a population if they improve an individual’s ability to attract more or better mates, even if those same traits are a detriment to survival in the long term. If natural selection explains evolution driven by the competition for survival, then sexual selection explains evolution driven by the competition for mates.
  • This island has very few natural predators paving way for a specific type of sexual selection known as “female choice”

Thank you for listening to this episode of My AP Biology Thoughts. For more student-ran podcasts and digital content, make sure that you visit  

Source Credits:

Music Credits:

  • "Ice Flow" Kevin MacLeod (
  • Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

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