[Ed] Yeah, I mean, of course there are many broken off snags throughout this forest, and how do you find the one that the black sicklebill’s displaying on? — [Tim] Well, the black sicklebill is, I think, is one of the most amazing bird-of paradise displays. It’s one of the displays in which the bird totally changes his shape. He completely changes into something kind of otherworldly. — [Ed] He goes from a movement of more or less a recognizable bird-like form, albeit a pretty extraordinary one with his long decurved bill and long tail, and these flank feathers sitting out at his side. — [Tim] And he raises them up around his head in a complete ring, okay, and completely closes off with only his beak sticking through. — [Ed] He lifts those feather up around his head and makes this kind of amazing black ovoid shape, something very non-birdlike. — [Tim] And then not only that, he also leans over on his side and bobs up and down. So he becomes this sort of comet shape thing. It’s sort of a dark brown black sort of comet shaped object with a little blue ring around the rim. — [Ed] This ovoid shape is made out of dozens of feathers all along the side of his body, on either side. And on the tip of each of those feathers, it’s tipped with blue, and somehow when he puts all those feathers together and goes horizontal they all line up so perfectly that you get a continuous blue line of feathers. Whereas if you were just looking at him in normal bird form, all of those feathers would just have blue tips, they wouldn’t make any sense, they wouldn’t line up to make any kind of pattern. And that’s just kind of the really incredible part of it – the precision of these feather ornaments to make something so unusual and extraordinary. [Explore more at birdsofparadiseproject.org, youtube.com/LabofOrnithology] 

End of transcript

Black Sicklebills are elegant, slender birds with long bills and tails. But that all changes when a female comes by. The male transforms into a horizontal comet shape on his display perch. He doesn’t use his wings to do this; he uses flank feathers. The comet shape is accentuated by a narrow blue band of iridescence created when those flank feathers line up precisely. Filmed and photographed by Tim Laman. Explore more at www.birdsofparadiseproject.org