On the Bird’s Head Peninsula in the Indonesian Province of West Papua island, there is a mountain range known as the Arfak Mountains. The word “arfak,” which means “inferior,” originates from the coastal Biak people’s language. The mountains are much larger than the other lowland regions in the vicinity.
Located in the east and central regions of the Bird’s Head Peninsula, these mountains rise steeply from the sea, with little or no coastal plain surrounding them. Mount Arfak, at 2,955 m (9,695 ft), can be viewed from the provincial capital, Manokwari, and is the highest point in West Papua and the Bird’s Head Peninsula.
Endemic Birds into the Arfak Mountains, Papua Island
The Center for Natural Resources Conservation (BBKSDA) of West Papua estimates that 110 species of mammals, 320 species of aves, and 2,770 species of orchids live in the Arfak Mountains. Among hundreds of bird species, one of the aves family that “stole” the world’s attention is a member of the Paradisaeidae family, namely Cenderawasih. Four types of paradise plants are unique to the Arfak Mountains.
They are Parotia Arfak (Parotia sefilata), Vogelkop Superb-bird-of-paradise (Lophorina niedda), Long Tailed Paradigalla (Paradigalla carunculata), and Astrapia Arfak (Astrapia nigra). The Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise is classified as a “young species” because it was only discovered in 2016 when ornithologist Edwin Scholes and wildlife photographer Tim Laman traveled through the forests of Papua island to work on the Bird-of-Paradise Project.
Quite Difficult to Find
The four birds of paradise are not only visually captivating. Their behavior in attracting the attention of the opposite sex is worth observing. They dance in front of the opposite sex like a “great seducer.”
Astrapia Arfak has a very long tail, both male and female. For males, the length is about 60 cm, while the female is 50 cm. In addition to its size, male Arfak Astrapia has a more diverse coat color. The chest has a green color, a yellow stripe pattern that extends below the eyes, and the crown is blue-purple. While the female Astrapia Arfak is relatively monotonous, with black on the skull and brown on all other body parts.
Astrapia Arfak includes birds that are difficult to find. Not much documentation has managed to record their behavior, let alone find out how they attract the attention of the opposite sex.
Tim, Ed, and Zeth Wongor, a tour guide in the Arfak Mountains, set out to explore the forest at 04.30 WIT when dawn had not yet appeared. They follow Arfak Astrapia’s distinctive “click” sound to search for the tree where they act. On the last day of the trip, Tim photographed the males in action by twisting their bodies down.
The lack of behavioral documentation also occurs in the Long Tailed Paradigalla bird. Regarding searches in cyberspace, no bird encyclopedia site details the unique characteristics of the Long-tailed Paradigalla, especially during the breeding season. The long-tailed Paradigalla is a monomorphic bird. In other words, both males and females have almost the same characteristics. The only difference between the sexes is body size, males are about 37 centimeters, and females are about 35 centimeters. The color characteristics are similar, only yellow-blue-red between the eyes and beak and black all over the body.
Parotia Arfak and Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise perform an actual show of the birds endemic to the Arfak Mountains of Papua island. Both have unique choreography, like a magical dance to convince the opposite sex. Fortunately, they are relatively easy to find. Performances often take place in the morning or evening.
Before dancing, Parotia Arfak cleans the “dance floor” from leaves, twigs, or anything that will interfere with the performance. The British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough also has an impact on the chance that the female would go to the “dancing floor.”
“They train each other. One juvenile male acts as a female while the other male dances. They take this role alternately,” said Ed.