Bird O'clock

Saving the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher: A Race Against Time

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher, or Tanysiptera Riedelii, is a stunning bird species found only in Biak Island, a small part of the Papua province in Indonesia. With its rich blue and orange plumage, this bird stands out in the lush green forests where it resides.

In this article, we will explore everything there is to know about the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher, from its identification and field identification to its different plumages and molts.


The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is a small bird species that measures approximately 18 cm long and at most weighs 50 grams. It has a bright blue head, neck, and back, with a burnt-orange colored breast that extends up to the belly and rump.

Its wings and tail are deep blue, with a lighter blue tip. Additionally, this species has a long, curved beak, perfect for catching small insects and fish.



The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is known for its distinct behavior, and spotting it in the wild is an experience one will never forget. This bird species is generally solitary and prefers to hunt alone.

However, during the breeding season, males will perform a courtship dance to attract a mate. In these dances, males will display their colorful plumage and produce a unique, smooth whistle.

Similar Species

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is often confused with other bird species in the region, such as the Blue-and-white Kingfisher and the Sacred Kingfisher. While these birds have similar bright blue colors, the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher can be identified by its distinct orange breast, lighter blue tip feathers, and longer, curved beak.



The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher has a unique molting period that varies from other bird species. While most birds molt once a year, usually in the autumn, the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher will molt twice a year in both the summer and winter.

During the molting period, this bird species will lose its feathers at different rates, starting from the body and working towards the head and tail. Additionally, the feathers will regrow in different positions, which can cause the bird to look patchy and uneven for a brief period.


The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is a beautiful bird species that is worth exploring. Understanding its unique characteristics, such as its plumages, molts, and courtship dances, can provide a glimpse into this bird’s unique place in the ecosystem.

It is critical to protect their natural habitat so that these stunning creatures can continue to thrive and be enjoyed for generations to come. So why not grab your binoculars and head out into the wild today to catch a glimpse of the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher in action?

Systematics History

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher belongs to the Alcedinidae family, commonly known as the kingfisher family. It was first described by the German naturalist Adolf Bernhard Meyer in 1874.

Over the years, there have been a few taxonomic changes, moving the bird between the Tanysiptera and Syma genera. However, it has been firmly placed in the Tanysiptera genus since the 1990s.

Geographic Variation

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is found only on Biak Island, a small island off the coast of Papua, Indonesia. However, there has been some recorded geographic variation in this species.

The birds found in the northern part of Biak Island are generally brighter colored, with a more intense orange breast. Those found in the south are duller in color, with a more orange-brown breast.

Additionally, the birds found on the nearby Supiori Island are known to have a distinct vocalization, indicating possible genetic differentiation.


While there has been some geographic variation in the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher, there are currently no recognized subspecies. However, further studies may reveal additional variations that would prompt a reevaluation of the subspecies classification.

Related Species

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher belongs to a fascinating genus of kingfishers, with nine other species that are found throughout Australia, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. All members of the Tanysiptera genus share a similar body shape, long and narrow, with a long, curved beak.

Historical Changes to Distribution

While the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is currently found only on Biak Island, its historical distribution has been influenced by a range of factors over the years. For instance, during the last glacial period, the sea levels were much lower than they are today, making it possible for animals to move across the land bridge that connected Biak Island to the mainland.

This could explain the similarities between the bird species on Biak Island and on the mainland coast. Additionally, human intervention has played a significant role in shaping the bird’s distribution.

Biak Island was inhabited by humans over 17,000 years ago, and they have likely had an impact on the bird’s habitat and population over time. For instance, human settlement has led to deforestation and habitat destruction on the island, which is a significant threat to the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher’s survival.

The bird’s distribution has also been influenced by historical trade routes, with European traders regularly visiting Biak Island in the early 17th century. The introduction of domestic animals and invasive plant species by these traders could have had a significant impact on the island’s ecosystem, further altering the bird’s habitat and distribution.

In recent years, conservation efforts have been made to preserve the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher’s habitat, especially on the island’s protected forests. Organizations like BirdLife International and the World Wildlife Fund have also stepped in to monitor the bird’s population and provide support to local communities involved in conservation efforts.


The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is a fascinating bird with a unique history. Its geographic variation, lack of recognized subspecies, and related species in the same genus make it an intriguing species from a taxonomic perspective.

Its historical distribution has also been shaped by factors like glacial periods, human impact, and trade routes. However, conservationists have identified the threats to the bird’s habitat and are taking action to preserve its population and ecosystem, ensuring that this magnificent bird continues to flourish for years to come.


The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is a bird species endemic to Biak Island, a small island located near the northern coast of Papua, Indonesia. The bird species are found in dense tropical rainforests and can also be spotted near streams, swamps, and mangrove forests.

These birds build their nests in the hollows of trees, and their diet primarily consists of insects and small fish caught with their long and curved beaks. The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is very particular about their habitat requirements.

They require undisturbed forested areas with tall trees that offer nesting sites and attract insects and small fish that make up their diet. Unfortunately, Biak Island has been subjected to increasing human activity over the years, leading to the destruction of its forests and the degradation of the bird’s habitat.

This activity, combined with climate change, has resulted in the declining population of the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher.

Movements and Migration

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is a non-migratory bird and is believed to be a resident of Biak Island all year round. These birds are territorial and are usually seen alone.

However, during the breeding season that lasts from July to November, the adult male Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is known to perform a courtship dance to attract the female. During these dances, the male bird will show off his distinctive blue and orange plumage and produce a unique whistling sound.

Apart from the breeding season, little is known about the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher’s movement patterns. However, research indicates that young birds disperse to new territories to avoid competition for resources with their parents.

This migration is usually short distances, and the birds quickly settle in their new territories, provided the area meets their habitat requirements. The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher’s limited movement patterns suggest that they depend heavily on their habitat on Biak Island for their survival.

The impact of human activity and deforestation on their habitat and food sources is a significant threat to their survival.

Conservation Efforts

The declining population of the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher has been recognized as a significant conservation concern. For this reason, the bird has been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Conservation organizations like BirdLife International and the World Wildlife Fund have taken up the task of monitoring the bird’s population and its habitat to protect the species from further decline. In recent years, the Indonesian government has also undertaken measures to prevent the destruction of Biak Island’s forests and protected areas and promote sustainable development in the region.

These measures have included the establishment of protected areas on the island, restricting logging, and promoting ecotourism. Moreover, local communities have also taken an interest in conservation efforts, recognizing the significance of the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher to their ecosystem and heritage.

Local programs and initiatives have been established to promote environmental awareness, reforestation, and habitat restoration.


The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is a bird species unique to Biak Island, and its habitat requirements are very specific. Research has indicated that the bird’s movement patterns are limited, and it is known to be a non-migratory species.

Declining population numbers and habitat destruction have posed significant threats to this species. Conservation organizations, the government, and local communities have taken serious initiatives to protect the bird’s population and habitat.

Their joint efforts in conservation enable the protection of this significant bird species in their natural habitat.

Diet and Foraging


The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is a bird species known for its highly specialized diet, consisting mainly of insects and small fish. The birds hunt by perching on a tree branch and scanning the water or ground below for possible prey.

Once spotted, they dive down, usually headfirst, towards the prey. They grab the prey using their long and curved beaks and carry it back to their perch, where they swallow it whole.


The diet of the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is primarily composed of insects, such as beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets. Small fish, such as guppies, also make up a significant portion of their diet.

The species’ specialized diet has led to the evolution of their unique beak structure, which is similar to that of other kingfisher species that feed on fish.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is an endothermic bird, which means that they can regulate their body temperature internally. This regulation is necessary for their metabolism, which, like other birds, is very high.

A byproduct of the high metabolism is heat, which the bird regulates by panting, especially during flight. The bird has a unique way of exchanging heat during flight by directing airflow over its respiratory tract, which allows the bird to regulate their body temperature.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is known for its unique vocalization, and it has a wide repertoire of sounds it uses to communicate. The bird’s most distinct vocalization is its courtship whistle, which is only performed by the male bird during the breeding season.

The whistle is composed of a series of three or four uniform notes, descending in pitch. The whistle is soft and smooth, sounding like “tu-tu-tu-tu” or “do-do-do-do.” It is said to sound almost flute-like in quality, making it one of the most beautiful courtship calls among bird species.

The bird also has other vocalizations, which vary in pitch and tone, depending on their purpose. These vocalizations are used to communicate fear, aggression, or alarm.

The bird’s alarm call, for instance, is a sharp and loud sound that indicates a potential danger in the vicinity. The vocalizations are also used to locate other birds and to mark territories.


The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher’s specialized diet and foraging behaviors have led to the evolution of their unique beak structure. The bird’s highly specialized diet of insects and small fish requires them to regulate their high metabolism and body temperature.

The bird’s vocalizations are also unique, with the courtship call being widely recognized for its smooth and beautiful sound. The unique characteristics of this bird species make it an attractive and fascinating species to study.

Its conservation, alongside its habitat protection, is critical for the future survival of this stunning bird species.



The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher’s locomotion is primarily aerial. The bird is an agile and strong flier, which it uses to hunt their insect or fish prey.

They can take off from a stationary position, flying over dense forest or open water. The bird can also hover in place while keeping its body stable by flapping its wings rapidly.

Additionally, the bird is capable of making quick turns or sudden dives, allowing it to catch its prey precisely.

Self Maintenance

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher uses its beak to groom and preen its feathers. This grooming behavior is necessary for maintaining their feathers’ waterproofing ability, which is essential for hunting in wet environments.

The bird will also use its beak to remove parasites from its feathers.

Agonistic Behavior

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is territorial, and the adult birds will defend their territories fiercely. If an intruder enters their territory, the bird will display agonistic behavior, such as loud vocalizations, fluffed feathers, or lunging.

The intruder will usually retreat in the face of these threats, and if they do not, the adult bird may resort to physical fighting.

Sexual Behavior

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is monogamous, and pairs will display courting behavior during breeding season. The male bird performs a courtship dance, which includes displaying its colorful plumage and producing the unique whistling sound.

The female bird will assess the male’s display before choosing a mate. After mating, the female will lay a single egg in a nest made of fresh leaves lined with dry twigs and plant fibers.

Both parents take turns incubating the egg and care for the chick once it hatches.


The breeding season for Biak Paradise-Kingfishers is from July to November. The male birds perform a courtship dance to attract the female, which culminates in mating and the laying of a single egg.

The egg is incubated for 18 to 21 days, during which time both parents take turns incubating the egg. Once the egg hatches, the parents continue to take turns feeding the chick and keeping it warm.

The chick will leave the nest after approximately 30 days, but the parents will continue to feed and care for it for several weeks after it leaves the nest.

Demography and Populations

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher’s declining population numbers are of significant concern, and it has been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The bird’s limited distribution on Biak Island is threatened by human activity, such as deforestation, mining, and overhunting.

Climate change is also a significant threat, with rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns putting the bird’s habitat at risk. Conservation organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and BirdLife International, have established conservation programs to protect the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher’s habitat, and the Indonesian government has established protected areas where the bird thrives.

Moreover, local communities have realized the significance of the bird to their ecosystem and heritage and have begun efforts to protect its habitat and promote conservation.


The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is a fascinating bird with unique behavior that includes territorial and courting courtship, aerial hunting, and grooming. The bird’s monogamous breeding behavior and egg incubation make for an exciting study of bird species.

However, the declining population numbers of the Biak Paradise-Kingfisher pose significant conservation concerns, and much work needs to be done to protect its habitat and birthrates. Ongoing conservation efforts are necessary to ensure the future survival of this stunning bird species.

The Biak Paradise-Kingfisher is a stunning bird species found only on Biak Island, Indonesia, that is significantly threatened by deforestation, climate change, and human activities. The bird’s unique morphology, behavior, and vocalizations make it an exciting area of research for ornithologists and conservation organizations.

Their highly specialized diet and aerial hunting behavior require robust habitat protection to ensure their future survival. Additionally, effective conservation efforts require concerted efforts across multiple stakeholders, including collaborative research, monitoring, and community-based conservation programs, with political and financial support from governments and international conservation organizations.

Protecting the unique Biak Paradise-Kingfisher and its habitat is not just important for preserving biodiversity and culture but also for the ecological services it provides, such as pollination and pest control, to the island’s inhabitants and beyond.

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