Colin Tudge

Shake Your Tail Feathers

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


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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. 

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