The Long-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia linearis) is a remarkablebird, not only because of its beauty but also because of its interesting mating
behavior. The habitat of the Long-tailed Manakin is in the dry and rainforests
of Central America. It is a small bird, about 10 centimeters in size. Males
have black plumage, a blue back, and a red crest, and they have two long tail
feathers. Females and juveniles, on the other hand, are olive-green. This is
the first difference due to the sexual behavior of the manakins. Sexually
mature males try to express their good genes with their colorful plumage and
thus attract females. Females and juveniles that are not yet sexually mature
are olive-green and very well camouflaged from predators in the forest. They do
not need to attract conspecifics with imposing plumage and have no reason to be
Female long-tailed Manakin
Male long-tailed Manakin
But now we come to the complicated mating system. Several malesform male pairs, which court females in display areas and are within calling
distance of each other. Each territory consists of a group of 3 to 13 males,
within which there is an age-graded linear dominance hierarchy. The two
dominant males, the alpha and beta, perform complex cooperative displays for
visiting females. Usually, only the alpha males copulate with the females, and
the females have a choice of alpha males from neighboring territories. Males
are usually at least 8 years old before they reach beta status, and 10-12 years
old before they reach alpha status. The 1-11 subordinate males of a territory
practice their dances in the absence of females. During these practice
sessions, male juveniles, which apart from a red crest are indistinguishable
from females, sometimes imitate a female in order to make the exercise as
realistic as possible. The males aswell move between neighboring territories,
forming social bonds with numerous other males. These social connections affect
future social status and reproductive success. The copulatory success of alpha
males in different places varies greatly, with a small minority of males
performing most copulations. Each territory is characterized by 1 to 6 perches,
with 1 to 2 primary perches most frequently used by alpha, beta, and visiting
females. The younger, subordinate males mainly use the secondary perches for
practicing dances and establishing social relationships.
Male courtship follows a stereotypically coordinated sequence of performances that demonstrates obligatory cooperation between alpha and beta males. These demonstrations begin with the alpha and beta males singing a synchronized "toledo" duet in the understory to attract females to the perch. Once a female is near or on the perch, males descend on the perch and perform an alternating sequence of vertical and buck jumps, collectively called "popcorn," which include a nyanyownh vocalization. Males then perform laborious silent butterfly flights to and from nearby perches, moving up to 20 meters away from the dance pole. Males alternate between popcorn and butterfly dances in what appears to be a ritualized pattern. Some popcorn dances, consisting mainly of jumps that increase in intensity, end with a buzzing sound from the alpha male accompanied by a rapid looping flight to a particular perch nearby where the male "flicks his wings." After the buzzing, the beta male leaves the immediate area, either voluntarily or due to additional motivation from an alpha male. The alpha male then performs a solo butterfly dance that is usually much longer than the previous butterfly dances of either male. An orderly pattern of dances ensues: Distant butterfly flights are usually followed by rapid perch changes near the dance pole, followed by a specialized vertical angel flight in which the alpha male lands next to the female, head down and level with the dance pole, and his crown spread out. This maneuver is usually followed by an attempted copulation, whether successful or not.
Male manakins have a large vocal repertoire, most likely resulting from the long-standing relationship between cooperative males, comprising at least 13 different calls, most commonly used during courtship to convey cooperative intrasexual interactions and during non-baiting male-male interactions to express agonism and alarm.
Here you can find 4 videos showing two males and one female dancing. The videos were taken at Karen Mogensen Reserve.
The videos were recorded by our wildlife camera. Unfortunately, we only own one at the moment. This is because they are relatively expensive and two were destroyed by poachers who suspected they had been taken by the game camera. Besides such fascinating videos of the mating dance of the Toledos, the camera also provides us with important information about which animals live in the reserve. We have many videos of large groups of wild boars and coatis. Even the relatively rare anteater is caught on camera from time to time. Particularly impressive are shots of wild cats like ocelots or the puma, which are otherwise too shy and almost never seen by humans. Only through the wild camera and very isolated paw prints in the forest do we even know that the Karen Mogensen Reserve also offers a home to these fascinating animals.
Other interesting videos of the manakin dancing can be found on Youtube. The blog describes the dance of the Long-Tailed Manakin, but the dances vary from subspecies to subspecies.