Discovery of a rare hybrid specimen known as Maria’s bird of paradise
The discovery of a rare hybrid specimen of Maria’s bird of paradise (Paradisaea maria, i.e., P. guilielmi × P. raggiana augustaevictoriae) in the ornithological collection of the Staatliches Naturhistorisches Museum in Braunschweig (SNMB) is reported. Until today only six male specimens (deposited in the natural history museums in Berlin and New York) and presumably one female have been identified in collections world-wide. The male specimen in Braunschweig corresponds well in its plumage colouration with an historical illustration and photographs of the original type specimen from the 19th century housed at the Berlin collection. It shows intermediate characteristics between both parental species, viz. the Emperor bird of paradise (P. guilielmi) and the Raggiana bird of paradise (P. raggiana augustaevictoriae). In addition, we try to elucidate the circumstances how this rare specimen of hybrid origin, which formerly belonged to the natural history collection of the factory owner Walter Behrens from Bad Harzburg, came to the SNMB. Our unexpected discovery highlights the importance to maintain, support and study also smaller private natural history collections, since they may house historical voucher specimens of high scientific value.