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A bird’s eye view of nature’s flashiest showmen

It took eight years, countless hours crouched high in the New Guinea rain-forest canopy, and new photographic techniques tested out on the turkeys that strutted into Tim Laman’s Lexington backyard to photograph all 39 species of visually stunning and flamboyant birds of paradise.

Laman, a field biologist and photographer affiliated with the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, teamed up with Edwin Scholes, an ornithologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in 2003. Through rain, floods, and interminable waiting for birds to show up at the right time, on the right branch, in the right light, they sought birds of paradise at 51 field sites. The results, featured in the December issue of National Geographic, are breathtaking, weird, and delightful.

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