Black Sicklebill illustration by Silke Raetze Click to enlarge image
Black Sicklebill, Epimachus fastuosus. Study from Museum specimen by Silke Raetze. Pencil, ink and watercolour. Image courtesy of the artist and Michael Reid at Elizabeth Bay. Registration number O.38560 Image: Silke Raetze
© Silke Raetze

Fast Facts

Common name

Black Sicklebill

Scientific name

Epimachus fastuosus


Epimachus (Greek, equipped to fight; i.e. allusion to sword-like bill); fastuosus (Latin, proud, haughty).


Sexually dimorphic. Adult male, 110 cm including central tail feathers; female, 55 cm. Male with head black with greenish blue and purple sheens, upperparts velvet black with purple iridescence with large central back feathers iridescent metallic blue-green, underparts blackish on breast, becoming more brownish towards tail, elongated pectoral and flank plumes black with broad iridescent tips and central tail feathers metallic blue-purple. Female lacks iridescence, upperparts shades of brown, underparts buff with dark brown barring.


Fruits and animals, including insects and vertebrates.


Lower elevation of mid montane forest, occasionally forest edges; 1280-2550 m, mainly 1800-2150m.


Polygynous. Solitary promiscuous males recorded singing and displaying from traditional perches during September, October and February-April. Males assume static posture then flex legs while swaying with pectoral, flank and tail plumes erect.


Breeding has been recorded at least November-February. Females build and attend to the nest alone. Eggs, incubation, nestling and development information unknown. Known to hybridise with Arfak Astrapia, Long-tailed Paradigalla and Superb Bird of Paradise.

Status and conservation

Vulnerable; low density and apparently declining owing to exploitation.


New Guinea: mountains of west and centre, including Bird’s Head and Wandammen Peninsulas, central cordillera from Weyland Mountains east to Kratke Range, Mount Bosavi, Bewani and Torricelli Ranges of north coast.