Get To Know the 2021 Lance-tailed Manakin Cam

April 2, 2021
Watch male Lance-tailed Manakins practice their dance displays.

You’re only one click away from a trip to the tropical dry forests of Panama, where the Lance-tailed Manakin Cam returns to showcase the gorgeous blue-and-red males with their cooperative dancing. In 2021, the cam features a brand-new diagonal display perch—center stage for the males to leap and bound their way through acrobatic displays as they woo potential mates. These dizzying routines are a sight to behold! Watch live.

Who’s on cam: The two males at this camera are known as an alpha-beta pair. You can tell them apart by their leg bands—the dominant or alpha male is YWmF (his bands are yellow-over-white on left, metal-over-fluorescent-pink on right); and the helper or beta male is mBRO (metal-over-light-blue on left, red-over-orange on right).

These two are still inexperienced, so there will be growing pains as they attempt to dance their way into the hearts of observant females. The alpha male, YWmF, was a beta male up until a few weeks ago, and he only recently seems to have found a running mate in mBRO. We may see females assess these courtship displays, but don’t be surprised if they fly off in search of more practiced males. You may even see subadult males join in practice sessions when no females are around.

What’s in it for the beta? Even though alpha-beta pairs display together, only the alpha males get to mate with females. That may make beta males seem like the ultimate wingmen, but there is a long-term payoff. Lance-tailed Manakin researchers have found that males who serve as betas have an increased chance of making it to alpha status in the future.

Notes from the field: This manakin breeding site has been monitored by Dr. Emily DuVal and her colleagues from Florida State University since 1999 as part of a long-term study of cooperation and mate choice. Here’s what she has to say about the 2021 season:

“This year, the cam is focused on a new display perch.  Previous years have featured the superstars of the local population, who ran a tight ship and had a steady stream of interested females checking out their display.  Those males’ perch was cleared by a local landowner, and they’ve moved to an alternate location that’s not as convenient for the webcam.  With the “big dogs” gone, the eager former neighbors have moved to occupy this perch that’s a stone’s throw from the old cam site.  The new occupants in early March were WWmY and YWmF (white-over-white on left leg; metal-over-yellow on right leg; and yellow-over-white on left, metal-over-florescent-pink on right). 

But the drama doesn’t stop there: a few weeks into this field season, the alpha, WWmY abandoned the new site and his former beta partner.  YWmF seems pleased with the situation and seamlessly picked up all the responsibilities of an alpha male, including patrolling the area for females, performing “pip flights” whenever he finds a possible mate, and displaying for females who come to check him out.  He’s still settling on a new beta partner, but right now seems to be spending the most time with mBRO (metal-light-blue; red-orange).  The advent of a newly promoted alpha is exciting to watch, and interestingly different from the polished routines of males featured in past years.  We’ve already seen YWmF and partner display with leapfrogs to a female who wasn’t actually on the display perch (how embarrassing!) and there is an overabundance of subadult males trying out their dance moves all the time.  That’s something that an experienced alpha would put an end to, based on the chases we sometimes see at other sites. YWmF has a lot to learn, it seems, and while we can’t promise polished performances this year, it seems like there may be more action on cam and social drama as the youngsters strut their stuff and the new leaders try to get them in line.”  

Throughout the season, we’ll provide expert insights about the manakins on cam from Dr. DuVal and her team. Follow the cam on Twitter @ManakinCam for the inside scoop!


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