Papua New Guinea – The tide has finally turned in the rainforest and many female Birds of Paradise are saying, “No More.” After eons of being exposed to unwanted courtship displays by their male counterparts, the females have taken a stand.
“We are living in a time where it is no longer appropriate for a male to approach me on a branch of an Umbrella Tree and begin harassing me with his highly orchestrated wing-flapping and beak-flipping,” said one female. “I’m just trying to gather fruits and seeds by myself. I didn’t ask to be shown that.”
Studies have shown that a staggering 97% of female Birds of Paradise have been approached by strange males for mating opportunities in the last year. What’s more shocking is that nearly 62% of females go along with the reproductive process afterwards.
Male reaction to this pushback is varied. “When you do something a certain way for hundreds of thousands of years, I think you tend to not question if it’s right or wrong,” one said. Others believe that the situation is equally emotionally perilous for males. “I understand it can be uncomfortable for a female,” one said. “But the female’s judgement can be harsh. I’ve groomed my plumage. I’ve hung upside down off of a tree while fanning my tail upwards, only to have a female fly away toward the chirps of another, presumably larger male bird. I’ve been rejected countless times and every rejection is emotionally damaging.”
Many have urged for females and males to start a dialogue regarding the broken courtship system. It has been difficult, however, to find common ground because the birds are sexually dimorphic in nature, a condition where the two sexes of the same species exhibit different characteristics beyond the differences in their sexual organs.
“Just because a male has jet-black plumage and I have light brown or that he has a slightly shorter beak than me, doesn’t mean that we can’t work to find a solution and make it a better place for everyone,” one female commented.