Colin Tudge

Shake Your Tail Feathers

Drawn from Paradise: The Discovery, Art and Natural History of the Birds of Paradise


HarperCollins 256pp £30 order from our bookshop

The first ever birds of paradise seen in Europe – or at least their dried skins – arrived in a small port north of Cadiz on 6 September 1522. They were carried by the Victoria, the last surviving ship from the fleet of five led by the great Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan – and the first ever to circumnavigate the globe (though, alas, Magellan himself was killed on the way round, in the Philippines). The skins were a gift from the rajah of Bacan, one of the Spice Islands (now called the Moluccas), to the king of Spain, who had sponsored Magellan’s trip, although the skins themselves, evidently of the genus Paradisaea, came from New Guinea, just to the east of the Moluccas. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What did London look like in the 6th Century? Rory Naismith's 'Citadel of the Saxons' tries to answer that questi… ,
    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,
    • ‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. From the A… ,