Thai Days: Birds of Paradise and lettuce FW: It’s Here! Full Birds-of-Paradise Website Launches Today


Hugh Paxton’s Blog is thankful to Johan for sharing these birds of paradise with us all. He did this while enduring a vegetarian meal in Bangkok. Johan is from South Africa. It is a fine and aspiring nation and grows lots of vegetables. But what a full blooded South African wants on his plate or on his braai is not a lettuce leaf but a kudu steak or the best slice of beef fillet grilled to perfection and about two inches thick. And a yard long.

I relish his anguish! A couple of weeks ago our paths crossed. My wife was dragging me away to a vegetarian restaurant, Johan asked me where I was going and I said I am going to a healthy vegetarian restaurant and I asked Johan where he was going and what his plans were. “To cook meat!” There was an evil glint in his eye and I told him diplomatically that he was an utter bastard!

Karmic backlash! Johan gets to meet the lettuce!

My wife hauls him into a vegetarian restaurant and he can’t refuse. It’s a business lunch. While he is sniffing the odours of crisping pork from the street stalls, the sizzle of beef, the subtle wafts of double cooked duck with really nice crunchy skins and sauces, or, that old favourite, steamed chicken with many options when it comes to condiments, I’m here safe in my nest. Having a big fat English bacon sandwich.

Johan while staring at his lettuce decided to avoid conversation with the monsters who had engineered this appalling meal and came up with birds of paradise.

Hugh Paxton’s Blog suggests you slice a lettuce, add a cucumber, sit back and relax. Or nip out and grab a burger. Then sit back and relax.

It is quite a show! They really are not called Birds of Paradise for nothing. Although sometimes I think they look a bit more silly than Lady Gaga.


To: Hugh Paxton
Subject: FW: It’s Here! Full Birds-of-Paradise Website Launches Today

Here the website re Birds of Paradise I was referring to while eating vegetables. Johan

Get up close to some of the most beautiful animals on earth
Dear Yasmin,

Red Bird-of-Paradise by Tim Laman

Red Bird-of-Paradise by Tim Laman

Our Birds-of-Paradise Project website is launching today. As co-creator of the project, I’d like to invite you to take a special first look. Because you signed up for project notifications, we’re sending you the link before the site becomes widely available to the public.

The site takes you inside the world of the birds-of-paradise to show you how these spectacular birds create their complex displays. Using 35 high-definition videos, plus animations, slideshows, and interactive features, we bring you vivid, up-close examples accompanied by commentary from Tim Laman and me. You’ll be able to see and understand what’s going on at a level of detail that’s unprecedented for any group of animals—it’s almost like going into the forests of New Guinea yourself. You’ll also find sections of the site that explain the hidden facets of evolution and geography that led to the appearance of so many extraordinary species, plus a section that shows what it took for Tim and me, working with local New Guineans, to get the exclusive footage you see on the site.

Here’s some of what the site contains:

  • 35 videos and 2.5 hours of running time
  • A breakdown of the main parts of a male’s display: sounds, color, unique feathers, shape-shifting poses, and dance steps
  • The crucial role of the females in choosing their mates
  • Key concepts of evolution illustrated and explained in simple terms
  • Secrets and techniques of how we captured such detailed footage
  • A gallery of extraordinary sounds
  • Interactive features to walk you through the birds’ diversity, how they get their colors, and why they evolved in New Guinea’s isolated mountains and islands

Visit to get up close with some of the most fantastically evolved animals in the world—and please reply to this email if you have any comments about the site or how it works. These are the birds that have captivated Tim Laman and me for more than eight years now as we’ve worked on the Birds-of-Paradise Project. I hope you enjoy them.

Thank you,

Ed Scholes

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Co-Creator, Birds-of-Paradise Project

P.S. It’s a big site—here are a few of my favorite pages you might want to start with:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at

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