Last updated on 1-Nov 2022
When seen in the dim half-light of subtropical rainforest, the plumage of the male Paradise Riflebird appears a velvety black, but when it is viewed in the full sunlight of a clearing, it takes on a shimmering iridescence of metallic green, blue and purple. Feathering is not the only spectacular aspect of this species — it also performs a courtship display in which the male dances about with his wings spread and curved around in front of him, sometimes even while hanging upside down!
The Paradise Riflebird is a medium-sized, long-billed riflebird without plumes. The adult male is velvety black with a metallic oil-green sheen to crown, nape and upper breast shield. The tail is very short with iridescent (shining) blue-green central tail feathers. The remainder of the underparts are velvety black with the tips of feathers an iridescent dark green. The bill is long and curves strongly downwards. The female and immature have greyish-brown upper parts, rufous on the wings, a whitish eyebrow and throat. The underparts are buff with black ‘horseshoe’ markings.
A loud rasping ‘yaaa-a-a-ss’. Bird call recorded by: Fred Van Gessel
The Paradise Riflebird occurs in highland rainforests of the Great Dividing Range from central-eastern New South Wales north of Dungog to the Bunya Mountains, south-eastern Queensland. The most northerly population is isolated in the Calliope Range, east of Biloela, Queensland.
The Paradise Riflebird is found in subtropical and temperate rainforests (including the Antarctic Beech rainforest), mostly in mountains and foothills, and adjoining wetter eucalypt forests.
Paradise Riflebirds have the unusual habit of draping cast-off snake skins on the rims of nests. It is not known if the snake skins are for purely decorative purposes or whether they are also useful for scaring off potential nest robbers.
The Paradise Riflebird is an active feeder, foraging like a treecreeper up tree trunks and along branches for insects, spiders and centipedes. The long curved bill is used to pry off large pieces of bark, to chisel into dead branches, and to probe into crevices and rotten logs and stumps on the forest floor. They also feed on fruit and often feed together with other fruit eaters such as bowerbirds.
During the breeding season, the gloriously plumaged male Paradise Riflebirds are vocal and conspicuous, spending most of the day on their display perches, which consist of one or more thick, horizontal branches high above the ground in a tall tree. They can be found both by their harsh calls in and around their display areas or by their rustling flight. Their display is spectacular, with the plumage sparkling green, blue, or purple in the sunlight. The wings are fully extended and fanned upwards, and the head is thrown backward to show the metallic, slightly erectile feathers on its throat, while the broad plumes of the belly and flanks are thrown slightly outwards in a circle. The adult females are very cryptic (hard to see) and their nests are not often found. The female alone attends to the nest which is a bulky, rough bowl of twigs and leaves, and decorated with moss, orchids, and sometimes snakeskins placed high in dense foliage. The males are promiscuous, mating with many females.