In my home state of Missouri (USA), we have a few strange and beautiful birds, such as northern cardinals, scissor-tailed flycatchers, and bald eagles. But I have never seen birds as striking as the Birds of Paradise, which are found in New Guinea, eastern Indonesia and eastern Australia. There are about 40 species, and every one of them is a wonder of specialized adaptation of very specific and remarkable colors and behavior rituals for the males to attract mates. If you want to be blown away by their colors and behaviors, check out the video on this page.
The King of Saxony Bird of Paradise makes an appearance at the very beginning of my novel, Diffusion, when Quentin is trying (unsuccessfully) to get a moment of solitude away from his boisterous students on their field trip to Papua, Indonesia. That happens, of course, before tragedy strikes their group.
The most striking thing about this species is the pair of long "eyebrows," which are feathers a half-meter long that look like long, serrated blades. Only the males have these, because they are used in an elaborate courtship dance to convince a female that they are worthy of serious consideration as boyfriend material. They have muscles in their heads that allow them to precisely move these long feathers around at will, making for a mesmerizing display.
The native aborigines of New Guinea call the bird the "kiss-a-ba," which is what its call sounds like. The natives hunt the male birds because they use the long eyelash feathers in their ceremonial headdresses. These feathers are also sometimes collected from the bowers of bowerbirds. Male bowerbirds collect unusual items to create their bowers, which they use to impress females, and molted King of Saxony feathers are prize possessions for their bowers. Bowerbirds also make an appearance in Diffusion and will be featured in a future email.
So the King of Saxony Bird of Paradise should be included in the T.A.T.C.H.O.F. - the Thriven and Thro Creature Hall of Fame.
Fun Fact: "Thriven and Thro" is a term that was used in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, particularly in poetry, to call someone excellent. Basically it means "awesome."
King of Saxony BOP photo: Tim Laman for National Geographic (http://www.timlaman.com)
King of Saxony BOP Painting: Vosunii and Deviant Art (http://vosunii.deviantart.com)