New Guinea is a country in Oceania, a group of islands between the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean, east of Indonesia.
In New Guinea, there can be found many members of the family Paradisaeidae. Birds of Paradise.
From a 2007 National Geographic article “Birds of Paradise:”
Birds of paradise perch on an improbable branch of the avian family tree, the flashy cousins of straitlaced ravens and crows. They began splitting off from their bland kin millions of years ago, evolving into today’s 38 eclectic species. Of these, 34 live only on New Guinea and its satellite islands.
Fruit and insects abound all year in the forests of New Guinea, the largest tropical island in the world, and natural threats are few. Linked to Australia until about 8,000 years ago, the 1,500-mile-long (2,400 kilometers) island shared much of its neighbor’s fauna. Marsupials and birds were plentiful, but placental mammals were entirely absent, meaning no monkeys and squirrels to compete with birds for food, and no cats to prey on them. The result: an avian paradise that today is home to more than 700 species of birds.
Freed of other pressures, birds of paradise began to specialize for sexual competition. Traits that made one bird more attractive than another were passed on and enhanced over time. Known as sexual selection, this process “is to birds of paradise what natural selection is to Darwin’s finches—the prime mover,” says Scholes. “The usual rules of survival aren’t as important here as the rules of successful mating.”
Mating. Male Birds of Paradise are all about the mating. The colors of their feathers. The behavior they display. The songs they sing. For a time in their lives – it is all about attracting a mate. These birds put on their best plumage, strut their best dances, and sing their best songs in hopes of becoming the lucky male who is picked by the lovely but drab little female chicks. Take this guy – the Six-Plumed Bird of Paradise.
What extremes will he go to to impress a potential mate? He sings. He dances. Would you believe he even makes the effort to clean up his home turf before strutting his stuff?
If any of you have watched the enthralling, enchanting, gorgeous, amazing series “Planet Earth”, then you have seen this guy in action. They even have footage of him cleaning up before any lady friends arrive.
Hmmmm….does that sound like any other creatures we know?
Pretty impressive behavior. Unfortunately for the lucky lady who picks this fancy bird to start a family with, it appears that most of the work and effort end with the act of mating. The Six-plumed Bird of Paradise is polygamous and does not take part in raising the young. All that work to make a good impression. And then, an entirely different creature.
Does *that* sound like any other creatures we know?
I for one worked very hard to make a good impression on my Sweetie when we first got together. I guess I did a good job because here we are – married and committed to each other for the rest of our lives. Now, a few years into our relationship, when I go through my bad days and my low points, I still sometimes think to myself: “Don’t screw this up. ” I worry that my bad points are too too off-putting for anyone to bear. I wonder if Sweetie really knew what he was getting himself into when he married me. Did I dazzle him with my bright plumage into thinking I was some kind of woman that I am not?
Which is a ridiculous thought because I went through plenty of low points during our dating time. And he knew everything about me before he asked me to marry him. Because, eventually, the newness of our time together wore off and we became comfortable enough with each other to display behavior that was less-than-prime courting behavior. The burping. The tears. Leaving dishes in the sink. The grumpiness. The insecurity. His inability to remember to pull the shower curtain to ward off the damp buildup. My inability to shut my brain off in the middle of the night. All of it. He knew. I knew. We did a little more in-depth research and soul searching than those six-plumed birdies.
For many humans, our instincts have evolved beyond the basic “make a copy of yourself before you die” tic. And with more complicated wants and needs comes the complications of human relationships. I don’t know if I can ever completely shut off my occasional insecurity in relationships. And Sweetie may get frustrated by my inability to swallow my own feelings and my endless need to talk things through with him, but I’m not like the housewives of yore – who smoothed their aprons and plastered smiles on their faces for their husbands, no matter what. And I don’t imagine that’s what he wanted, or thought he was getting.
At least I am able to reassure myself that I tried not to puff myself up to an illusion of something I am not. When my feathers come down, I am an ordinary woman with ordinary foibles. That can’t be too surprising to him, can it? He knew what he was getting into.
I think, for us humans, if we want our mates to actually stick around past the mating act itself, we do ourselves a favor by exposing our flaws along with our fine feathers. In the long run, we are better able to adapt in the future if we see the real people behind our loved ones’ faces. No guarantees, of course. But it helps.
But really, check this guy out –
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