The 19th-century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace referred to the birds of New Guinea as “the most extraordinary and the most beautiful of the feathered inhabitants of the earth”, and he was referring to 39 species of bird that are found in the largely unspoiled New Guinea and a few surrounding areas, these birds became to be known as the birds of paradise. In more recent decades numerous research expeditions had attempted to successfully track down all 39 of the birds documented by Russel Wallace, all failed to complete the full set.
In 2003 the ornithologist Edwin Scholes and the biologist and photographer Tim Laman set about planning a new project, their plan to hunt down and capture footage of every one of the ‘birds of paradise’. It took the pair eight years and some 18 exhibitions to an area of the world which is still relatively unexplored, but the ultimately succeeded in filming and photographing the birds and documenting the birds in a way that the public had never been able to enjoy before. This 2012 National Geographic TV episode documents some of their journey and showcases some of the stunning footage that they gained on the way.
Scholes and Laman also published the 228 page coffee table style photobook Birds of Paradise: Revealing the World’s Most Extraordinary Birds, providing hundreds of stunning photos of the 39 birds of paradise, as well as some information about the birds and their expeditions.