Describing ethological form. Description of the natural world is a fundamental aspect of all biological science and is a major part of my research on the Birds of Paradise.  Because of the remoteness of their New Guinean homes, most birds of paradise are little known in the wild, especially when it comes to detailed information about the extraordinary courtship displays that make up a major part of BOP courtship phenotypes.  An important part of my research involves documenting courtship behaviors of wild birds with digital video and describing those behaviors using an approach that not only fills the gaps in our knowledge of their natural history, but one that also provides a solid framework for comparative study. 

The figure on the left shows the hierarchical organizational structure for one (of seven) of the male courtship displays of Carola’s Parotia (P. carolae).  The display shown here is the

Ballerina Dance display.  Figures above and left are from Scholes 2006.


Click here to see a video of this display. More video is available online from the Macaulay Library sound and video catalog, or click here to see more voucher clips.


Click the images below to hear calls from two populations of P. carolae.

To the right is the “quaver” call of the Crater Mountain population in Papua New Guinea. Click to play.

To the right is the “kwoi-kwoi-kweer” call of the Mt. Stolle population in Papua New Guinea. Click to play.

The figures above illustrate several aspects of the Parotia carolae courtship phenotype.  The photo at left shows the terrestrial display court of Parotia sefilata and gives a parotia-eye view my observational blind and video camera (the odd green thing in the background).

structure & composition of the courtship phenotype

Characterizing the morphology of the bird of paradise courtship phenotypes. This work is ongoing and will be the focus of my research during my post-doctoral fellowship at the American Museum of Natural History.

copyright © 2011 Edwin Scholes III