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. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,