King Bird of Paradise

King Bird of Paradise (Cicinnurus regius) is one of the forty two species of Birds of Paradise that are known to science. The bird lives in tropical rainforest of mainland New Guinea especially in lowland and lower montane forests. This paradise bird is very small compared to other mainland species such as the Magnificent Bird of Paradise, Glossy-mantled Manucode, or Lesser Birds of Paradise. The size of the male bird is 16 cm, relatively the same as the size of Wilson's Bird of Paradise. King Bird of Paradise lives in tangled rattan vines that are hanging in a tall tree. In West Papua, local people call it: Burung Cendrawasih Belah Rotan. Burung means bird, belah means split and rotan means rattan - a kind of climbing palm that has been used as raw material for making furniture. In Indonesian language, the King Bird of Paradise can be translated as Burung Cendrawasih Raja.

King Bird of Paradise (Cicinnurus regius) also called Cendrawasih Raja
King Bird of Paradise (Cicinnurus regius)

When I organize birdwatching trip in West Papua, I usually include King Bird of Paradise in my target list. There are several places which tourists can go to watch it. Some of them include Susnguakti forest of Manokwari, and Tambrauw mountains. From previous trips, I know that this paradise bird shows up later. So, when I guide tourists in the jungle, I will bring them to watch other birds first, such as the Common Paradise Kingfisher (Tanysiptera galatea), Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, or the Lesser Birds of Paradise (Paradisaea minor). We can hear their calls earlier at approximately 06.00. For the King Bird of Paradise, we usually go to the display tree of the bird at 08.00 and watch the bird until 11.00.

Watching King Bird of Paradise in Manokwari
European tourists were watching King Bird of Paradise in Susnguakti forest of Manokwari

Because the bird is very small, I usually ask local villagers whose eyes are very "sharp" to spot the bird. A good bird spotter will increase the chance of seeing the bird. When the bird spotter has found the bird, I will use binoculars to check where he sits and then aim my spotting scope to the bird. He calls his female counterpart in the mornings and in the afternoons. When she comes and land on the nearby vine, he will jump up and down from lower vine to higher vine. He will also perform his courtship dance by standing close to his female bird and expand his feather. After that he will shake his body and wings in unique movements to attract the female King Bird of Paradise for mating.

To watch this King Bird of Paradise, you need to fly to Manokwari city. First, you take an international flight from their country to Jakarta (the capital city of Indonesia) and then continue their trip to Manokwari city by domestic airlines such as Batik Air, and Sriwijaya Air. In the city there are hotels such as Swissbel hotel, Aston Niu hotel, Mansinam Beach Resort, Hotel Valdos, Hotel Triton, Hotel Fujita and Billy Jaya Hotel, Hotel Oriestom, and etc.

As a tour guide, I could meet you at the airport and organize your trip to the forest where the King Bird of Paradise and other beautiful tropical birds live.

burung Cendrawasih Raja/ Cendrawasih Belah Rotan
King Bird of Paradise in Susnguakti forest of Manokwari

Before traveling to West Papua for watching birds, and other wildlife, you need to make several preparations. Walking in the forest will usually include hiking up and down steep slopes. Make sure that you do regular exercises for your physical preparations. Your photographic equipment should be good but light. A D-SLR camera with telephoto lens such as Sigma 150-600mm sport is a good choice but do not forget to bring some extra batteries.and memories. A small pocket camera will also be useful for taking pictures of landscapes, flowers, butterflies, and people. Flash light is needed for night walk in the forest.

It takes around one hour by car from Manokwari city to the entrance of the forest. Accompanied by villagers, we will continue our trip by hiking steep slopes to the birding site. There is a basecamp in the forest with tents, mattrasses, cooking and eating utensils.

In general, birdwatchers spend 3 to 4 days in Susnguakti forest. In addition to King Bird of Paradise, they will be able to watch Lesser Birds of Paradise, Magnificent Riflebird, Glossy-mantled Manucode, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Superb Fruit Dove, Brown Cuckoo Dove, Pink-spotted Fruit Dove, Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Hooded Butcherbird, Golden Cuckooshrike, Frilled Monarch, Eclectus Parrot, Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot, Coconut Lorikeet, Blyth's Hornbill, Mimic Meliphaga, Black Sunbird, Hooded Pitta, Red-bellied Pitta, and a lot more.

This birding trip to Susnguakti forest can be combined with tours to Tambrauw mountains, Malagufuk village or Klatomok village in Klasow valley of Sorong regency or even to Raja Ampat.