Catch Birds of the Gods on Nature January 23 on PBS
How is it that beautiful birds are so much more interesting than beautiful people? My guess is that birds don’t put as great a value on beauty as people do, for birds beauty is a job one does to attain one’s goal (reproduction). Certainly, quite a bit of human preening is done for the same reason (or similar), but it doesn’t seem that birds care if other birds think they’re “cute,” or have the nicest feathers in town.
For centuries, there were no carnivorous predators on New Guinea for the birds of paradise to fear, and so they showed off their feathers and danced for generation after generation. Since the females chose the birds with which they would mate (and they tend to choose the most eye-catching), the birds evolved to be more and more beautiful. When humans arrived on New Guinea, the birds became prey, their feathers part of sacred rituals.
On Sunday, January 23, Nature (PBS) presents Birds of the Gods, an intriguing documentary examining these incredible birds and the New Guinean conservationists who study them—Miriam Supuma and Paul Igag. In addition to observing the birds in the wild, the conservationists visit tribal dancers who use the birds' plumage in their ceremonies, and count the feathers in headdresses to see which birds may be endangered.
Hosted by David Attenborough, Birds of the Gods is a revealing look at birds of paradise and the threats around them. One cannot help but be captivated by the various birds’ mating presentation and dance (which certainly is their aim). Birds of the Gods is also available on DVD and Blu-ray, and can be viewed at PBS.org.