Aim The subspecies of Paradisaeidae are mapped and the distribution patterns correlated with aspects of New Guinea tectonics. Location New Guinea, the northern Moluccas, and north-eastern Australia. Methods Panbiogeographical analysis ( Craw et al., 1999 ). Results Pteridophora, Loboparadisaea, Parotia carolae and others are notably absent from the Vogelkop, Huon and Papuan Peninsulas, accreted terranes in the north and east of New Guinea. Coupled with this, putative sister taxa in each of Astrapia, Parotia and Paradisaea show massively disjunct affinities between the Vogelkop and Huon Peninsulas: Astrapia nigra (Vogelkop) and A. rothschildi (Huon Peninsula); Parotia sefilata (Vogelkop) and P. wahnesi (Huon); and Paradisaea rubra (Western Papuan Islands by the Vogelkop) and P. guilielmi (Huon Peninsula). In the last two species the males have oil-green throat coloration extending above the eye to cover the front of the crown, the eye is reddish-brown not yellow, the rectrices are longer and the inner vane of the outermost primaries is not emarginate. Main conclusions The disjunct affinities among the accreted terranes (Vogelkop, Huon, etc.), together with the absences there of groups like Pteridophora, are incompatible with usual dispersal models of New Guinea biogeography, but are compatible with recent analyses of vicariance biogeography and terrane tectonics ( Michaux, 1994; Flannery, 1995; de Boer & Duffels, 1996a, b; Polhemus, 1996 ; Polhemus & Polhemus, 1998). Birds of paradise are sedentary forest dwellers with small home ranges and are tolerant of disturbance, and so it is suggested that populations have been caught in the dramatic geological movements (lateral and vertical) of different parts of New Guinea and this has led to fragmentation and juxtaposition of ranges, as well as altitudinal anomalies.