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Magnificent riflebird

Magnificent riflebird
Male magnificent riflebird perched.
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Paradisaeidae
Genus: Ptiloris
P. magnificus
Binomial name
Ptiloris magnificus
(Vieillot, 1819)

Craspedophora magnificus

The magnificent riflebird (Ptiloris magnificus) is a species of passerine bird in the birds-of-paradise family Paradisaeidae.

Magnificent riflebirds are widely distributed throughout lowland rainforests of western New Guinea and the northern Cape York Peninsula of Australia (continent). A relatively common species throughout its range, it is evaluated as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed on Appendix II of CITES.


The magnificent riflebird was formally described in 1819 by the French ornithologist Louis Vieillot under the binomial name Falcinellus magnificus.[2] It is now placed in the genus Ptiloris that was introduced in 1825 by the English naturalist William Swainson.[3][4] The common name "riflebird" comes from the likeness of their black velvety plumage to the uniform of the British Army Rifle Brigade.[5]

Nominate male specimen at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center. Note its brilliant, scaly, iridescent, delta-shaped breast plate.

Two subspecies are recognised:[4]


This riflebird is a medium-sized bird, being up to 34 cm long. The male is velvet-black bird-of-paradise with elongated black filamental flank plumes, an iridescent blue-green crown, a wide, triangle-shaped breast shield, and on central tail feathers. It has a black curved bill, yellow mouth, blackish feet and a dark brown iris. The female is brownish with dark spots and buff bars below with a white brow. The immature male resembles the male but with less tail plumes.[6]


The diet of the magnificent riflebird consists mainly of fruits and a variety of invertebrates such as spiders, millipedes, etc.[6] Males are polygamous and perform solitary courtship displays on a 'dancing perch'. During these displays, the male fully extends his wings and raises his tail; he jerks upward while swinging his head from side to side, showing off his metallic blue-green breast shield, and producing a distinctive "woosh" sound as he flaps his wings. Multiple females will observe these displays, and, if satisfied with the performance, reward the male with mating rights. Females subsequently build nests, incubate, brood, and feed young without male assistance.[7]

Nominate female at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center. Note the exceptional sexual dimorphism present in the species.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Ptiloris magnificus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Vieillot, Louis Pierre (1819). Nouveau dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle, appliquée aux arts, à l'agriculture, à l'économie rurale et domestique, à la médecine, etc (in French). Vol. 28 (Nouvelle édition ed.). Paris: Deterville. p. 167.
  3. ^ Swainson, William John (1825). "On the characters and natural affinities of several new birds from Australasia; including some observations on the Columbidae". Zoological Journal. 1: 463–484 [479].
  4. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (January 2022). "Crows, mudnesters, melampittas, Ifrit, birds-of-paradise". IOC World Bird List Version 12.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  5. ^ Fraser, I.; Gray, J. (2013). Australian Bird Name - a complete guide. Collingwood, Victoria, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.
  6. ^ a b Frith, C.; Frith, D. (2020). "Magnificent Riflebird (Ptiloris magnificus)". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. doi:10.2173/bow.magrif3.01. S2CID 216388410.
  7. ^ "Magnificent Riflebird (Lophorina magnifica)". doi:10.2173/bow.magrif3.01. S2CID 216388410. Retrieved 2019-10-01.

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Magnificent riflebird
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