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Lance-tailed Manakins Leap Into 2024 Cam Season

Learn all about the 2024 Lance-tailed Manakin Cam season.

Watch the alpha male Lance-tailed Manakin (banded YWmF) practice dance moves on his display perch.

The Lance-tailed Manakin Cam has leapt back onto Bird Cams for another action-packed season from Isla Boca Brava, Panama! The scene features a single display perch where an alpha-beta pair of male manakins will try to dance their way into the hearts of female spectators with leap-frogging displays. If their attempts at wooing are successful, the alpha male will have a chance to mate. If not, females will move along to another display perch in search of a worthy suitor. Watch these acrobatic birds leave it all on the dance floor LIVE on the Lance-tailed Manakin Cam.

Learning The Lek: Lance-tailed Manakins, like other species in the genus Chiroxiphia, court females using complex multi-male displays. The cam shows one display perch in the display area of one pair of males. The population monitored by our parters at the DuVal Lab at Florida State University consists of 29 males and their display partners, with display areas of adjacent alphas usually separated by at least 150 feet. This concentration of male display areas is called a “lek,” and females visit the lek to evaluate lots of males prior to choosing whom to breed with.

Male Lance-tailed Manakins are black with a blue back and red crest; females are olive-green with orange legs, and have an orange or red crest. Young males initially look like females, but pass through two intermediate subadult plumages before attaining adult coloration in their 4th year after hatching.

Deciphering The Dance: To attract females, the males perch side-by-side in tall trees to sing duet songs. When a female approaches, they perform a dance of coordinated leaps and butterfly-like flights on the display perch. Displays that happen right before copulation are often performed only by the alpha male, but if both males are present the beta male typically leaves the area several minutes before the final stages of courtship and mating.

Watch Lance-tailed Manakins display at their perch.

The most eye-catching display is the “backwards leapfrog” in which the two males leap alternately over one another as the female watches at close range. Bouts of leapfrog display often end with a sharp “eek” by the alpha male, and one display can include many bouts of leaping – and eeking.

Meet The Manakins: The 2024 season features some old friends and some new faces! Last year’s alpha male, YWmF (banded yellow-over-white on his left leg, metal-over-fluorescent-pink on right) continues to be the alpha at a his perch site. This year’s twist is that his main dancing partner from last season (RFFm) has moved out and seems to be someone else’s beta this year, so we’re likely to see some new males rehearse for the beta role alongside YWmF.

Despite the lack of an established dance partner, researchers have already seen the alpha mate with one of the females who favored him last year, so things are looking up for a successful year ahead.

Be sure to follow updates throughout the cam season on the cam’s Twitter/X account @ManakinCam.

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Pileated Woodpecker by Lin McGrew / Macaulay Library