island of New Guinea is
and the independent
nation of Papua New Guinea.
This is the land of birds of paradise, Pesquest's Parrot, Eclectus
Parrots, fruit doves, fig parrots, mynahs, hornbills, cockatoos,
honeyeaters, cassowaries, and lories galore! Because of its astounding
variety of habitats, New Guinea supports over 700 species of birds.
There is still a great deal of unspoiled habitat but gold and
oil mining accompanied by new reads into remote areas are changing
the ways of the tribes who have lived here undiscovered and undisturbed
by modern man until the early to mid twentieth century. Today, it is a country that can be challenging
to the traveler and even more so to the bird-watcher! One cannot
safely go off driving alone through the countryside nor can one
safely stop beside the road, even on a guided tour, to check out
a patch of woods. Land is owned by numerous groups who do not
look kindly upon strangers on their property! Even with these
restrictions, it is still possible to see a dizzying assortment
of unusual birds! It is extremely difficult to photograph birds
there due to the early morning or late afternoon gloomy light
present when the birds can be most easily seen.
Huli Wigmen of the Tari highlands wear a variety of local birds' feathers in their colorful ceremonial
wigs. The gentleman at right, playing a mouth harp, has Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo
crest feathers, Musschenbroek Lory tail feathers, and Superb Bird
of Paradise breast feathers in his wig. These wigs are very expensive
for these men and the wigs are carefully maintained. The feathers
of certain species, especially those of the birds of paradise,
are becoming harder to obtain as the birds retreat deeper into
the forest away from human encroachment. These people revere the
feathers of the exotic birds that they admire because of their
beauty, their singing ability, and their ability to fly and believe
that wearing these feathers will impart some of these desirable
qualities to the wearer.
are weaning the tail plumes
of the Raggiana Bird of Paradise and they emulated the bird's
dance and its sharp call.
A hornbill beak
bracketed by pig tusks adorns this man's back. This bill came
from the Blyth's Hornbill (Rhyticeros plicatus).
To many of us,
it appears cruel to see birds captured like this and for them
to be killed for their feathers. Indeed it can be distressing
to see but we must realize that this is part of the culture of
these people. The use of local bird feathers has been their custom
for many years before modern man intruded upon their world. The
impact of the modern world is a much greater factor threatening
the survival of rare species in Papua New Guinea.
All photos (except otherwise
noted) are by Gail J. Worth and are copyrighted and may not be
reproduced by any method without written permission.
You may stop the music if you wish