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Blue Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea rudolphi

This species has a small population that is suspected to be declining owing to pressure from hunting for its plumes. However, it is tolerant of degraded habitats, with many rugged and inaccessible intermontane forests still supporting this species, and it is therefore classified as Vulnerable. Should this species be found to be declining at a more moderate rate, or indeed, not at all, it would qualify for downlisting to a lower category of threat.

Taxonomic source(s)
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

30 cm. Dark bird-of-paradise with stout, ivory bill, broken white eye-ring and blue wings, back and tail. Male is otherwise black with fine, blue tail plumes and two long streamers. Female has chestnut underparts. Similar spp. Both the head pattern and the blue upperparts are unique. Other congeners are larger, slimmer and longer-tailed. Voice Displaying males give a slowly cadenced series of notes wahr..wahr.. and a metallic humming when inverted, also croaking and growling contact calls. Hints Can be seen in fruiting trees but to see males in their famous inverted display, seek local guides.

Distribution and population
Paradisaea rudolphi occurs in the eastern Central Ranges of Papua New Guinea, from Mt Sisa south of Tari to the Owen Stanley range. It is patchily distributed and absent in many areas, including in seemingly suitable habitat in eastern Papua New Guinea, but nowhere common (Frith and Beehler 1998, K. D. Bishop in litt. 2000, B. Beehler in litt. 2012). Advertising males were spaced at about every 200 m along one suitable forest ridge, and 400 m along another, and three radio-tagged birds had home ranges of 5, 17 and 33 ha over c.50 days (Pruett-Jones and Pruett-Jones 1988). At another study site, males were less dense, occupying up to 100 ha, perhaps owing to the more patchy forest or the higher hunting pressure at this site (Whiteside 1998). The species can also be found in degraded forest remnants, at the edges of gardens and in copses of planted trees in upland valleys of central Papua New Guinea. Singing adult males have been reported in the highly populous Tari Valley, including in areas with little original forest, suggesting a tolerance of highly degraded forest (B. Beehler in litt. 2012).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
There are no quantitative data available to calculate population trends; however, the species is suspected to be declining slowly, owing to pressure from hunting for its plumes.

It occurs in lower montane forest, from 1,400-1,800 m, but occasionally from 1,100-2,000 m, especially female-plumaged birds. Although displaying males usually use patches of primary forest, they have also been reported singing in the highly populous Tari valley, in areas with little remaining primary forest (B. Beehler in litt. 2012). The species is able to tolerate highly degraded habitats, occurring in garden mosaics, copses of planted trees in upland valleys (B. Beehler in litt. 2012, G. Dutson in litt. 2012), forest edge and nearby disturbed areas (van den Bergh 2009). However, it may be excluded from more degraded habitats as a result of hunting of males and competition with the more adaptable Raggiana Bird-of-paradise P. raggiana. The favoured elevational zone continues to be degraded by intensified agriculture and a growing rural population. It is largely a canopy species feeding mainly on fruit (Coates 1990, Mack 1992, Frith and Beehler 1998).

The major threat is hunting for its pectoral and tail feathers (Beehler 1985, Coates 1990, Frith and Beehler 1998). Although hunting occurs mainly for collection of feathers for traditional customary practices, birds or feathers are occasionally sold to tourists (van den Bergh 2009), even though it is illegal to take them out of the country. Despite a reduction in hunting due to a law preventing the killing of birds with non-traditional means (i.e. shotguns), there are many more children than 40 years ago, who shoot fairly significant numbers of birds on the nest, using slingshots (B. Beehler in litt. 2012). Although the species is hunted for its plumes, it is not worn as commonly as other species and is not frequently sold (particularly in the highlands). However, a few tribal groups still use the species’s plumes and so hunting is likely to be concentrated in certain areas (B. Beehler in litt. 2012, M. Supuma in litt. 2012). Remaining forest, including the species’s favoured elevational zone, is under pressure for clearance for agriculture by the increasing human population. However, agriculture-related habitat alteration does not necessarily preclude the species from these areas as it has been found to occur in highly degraded forest remnant/garden mosaics and can survive in human-dominated ecosystems (B. Beehler in litt. 2012, G. Dutson in litt. 2012). There are still significant areas of its range which are inaccessible and largely uninhabited (Coates 1990, Frith and Beehler 1998, B. Beehler in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II and protected by law in Papua New Guinea. It is illegal for non-citizens to take birds-of-paradise without a permit from the Department of Environment & Conservation and to kill birds-of-paradise with anything other than traditional means (Beehler in litt. to van den Bergh 2009, Sekhran & Miller 1996). While all Birds of Paradise are protected by the Papua New Guinea Fauna Act (1968), the enforcement of this protection is challenging, considering that over 93% of landownership rests with traditional custodians (M. Supuma in litt. 2012). In addition, there is a distinct lack of funds to support enforcement officers to monitor the trade of the species. Conservation Actions Proposed

Survey western boundary of range. Survey historical sites in north and east of range. Estimate population densities and sizes at known sites. Investigate tolerance of secondary forest and degraded areas for both foraging and breeding, including the mapping and monitoring of male song-perches in populous mid-montane valleys (such as the Wahgi and Tari valleys). Research rates of forest loss in preferred altitudinal range. Monitor numbers at most accessible sites such as Ambua Lodge. Monitor trade prices and quantities. Investigate hunting levels and attitudes to control amongst hunters. Create large, locally-managed forest reserves with an enforced hunting ban. Run awareness and education programmes for landowners and highland inhabitants. Raise awareness of the conservation status of the species amongst tourists. Encourage traditional land custodians to conserve their existing plumes using effective storage methods. Enforce existing legislation. Utilise its well-known image as a flagship species for ecotourism and conservation ventures. 

Beehler, B. 1985. Conservation of New Guinea rainforest birds. In: Diamond, A.W.; Lovejoy, T.E. (ed.), Conservation of tropical forest birds, pp. 233-247. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Coates, B. J. 1990. The birds of Papua New Guinea, 2: passerines. Dove, Alderley, Australia.

Frith, C. B.; Beehler, B. M. 1998. The birds of paradise. Oxford University Press, Inc, New York.

Mack, A. L. 1992. The nest, egg and incubating behaviour of a Blue Bird of Paradise Paradisaea rudolphi. Emu 92: 244-246.

Pruett-Jones, S. G.; Pruett-Jones, M. A. 1988. A promiscuous mating system in the Blue Bird of Paradise Paradisaea rudolphi. Ibis 130: 373-377.

Sekhran, N.; Miller, S. 1995. Papua New Guinea country study on biological diversity. Department of Environment and Conservation, Vaigani, Papua New Guinea.

van den Bergh, M. O. L. 2009. Destructive attraction: Blue Birds of Paradise and local inhabitants: an equilibrium?.

Whiteside, R. 1998. The Blue Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea rudolphi: display and behaviour of wild birds. Australian Bird Watcher 17: 319-327.

Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A.

Beehler, B., Bishop, K., Leary, T., Dutson, G., Supuma, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Paradisaea rudolphi. Downloaded from on 10/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 10/07/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Blue bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rudolphi) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Paradisaeidae (Birds of paradise)
Species name author (Finsch, 1885)
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 21,800 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species