Vogelkop Newest Addition to Bird-of-Paradise Species

The Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise. Photo by Tim Laman/Macaulay Library
The Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise. Photo by Tim Laman/Macaulay Library

Newly publicized audiovisuals confirm full species status for Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise, one of the dancing birds-of-paradise in New Guinea.

The Vogelkop is found only in the island’s far-western Bird’s Head, or Vogelkop, region.

In a new paper published in the journal PeerJ, scientists “show and tell” half-a-dozen ways this form is distinct from the more widespread Superb Bird-of-Paradise, now called the Greater Superb Bird-of-Paradise—the bird known for its bouncy “smiley face” dance routine.

Vogelkop Has Smooth Dance Moves

“After you see what the Vogelkop form looks like and acts like in the wild, there’s little room for doubt that it is a separate species,” says Ed Scholes with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Birds-of-Paradise Project.

The raised cape of the Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise (right) is crescent shaped and unlike the oval shape of the widespread Greater Superb Bird-of-Paradise (left) found throughout most of New Guinea. Right image by Tim Laman/Macaulay Library. Left image from video by Ed Scholes/Macaulay Library.
The raised cape of the Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise (right) is crescent shaped and unlike the oval shape of the widespread Greater Superb Bird-of-Paradise (left) found throughout most of New Guinea. Right image by Tim Laman/Macaulay Library. Left image from video by Ed Scholes/Macaulay Library.

“The courtship dance is different. The vocalizations are different. The females look different. Even the shape of the displaying male is different.”

Vogelkop’s Unique Behavior and Sounds

See the physical and acoustic differences explained in this rare video.


When expanded for courtship display, the Vogelkop male’s raised cape creates a completely different appearance—crescent-shaped with pointed tips rather than the oval shape of the widespread form of the species.

The way the Vogelkop male dances for the female is also is distinctive, the steps being smooth instead of bouncy.

The Cornell Lab’s Birds-of-Paradise Project (birdsofparadiseproject.org) is a research and education initiative to document, interpret, and protect the birds-of-paradise, their native environments, and the other biodiversity of the New Guinea region—one of the largest remaining tropical wildernesses on the planet.

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