The bird of paradise is the name given to a group of the most beautiful birds in the world. Some are bright green and yellow; others are a brilliant red. But the most beautiful thing about a bird of paradise is the fanlike tail made up of long, feathery plumes that grow from its back. These magnificent plumes are usually a deep golden-yellow, though some of the birds have white or black plumes. Well-dressed women used to wear hats that were adorned by these plumes.
The bird of paradise lives in New Guinea, in the Pacific Ocean, and on other nearby islands. It is about two feet long, and feeds on fruits and insects. Only the males are brilliantly colored. During the first year of life, both the male and female are a coffee-brown in color. After this, the male gradually changes, until in its fourth year it has the splendid plumes that make it famous. Despite its great beauty, the bird of paradise is closely related to the crow. Little was known about it until one hundred years ago, when the first bird of paradise was brought to Eu-rope.
Until then it had been thought that this bird had no wings or feet, and that it floated through the air, supported by its trailing plumes. It was also thought that the bird of paradise never touched the earth until it died, and that it then floated down to the ground. None of this was true, of course. You can see a bird of paradise today in the bird house in many zoos.