Lance-tailed Manakins

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Hosted by DuVal Lab, Florida State University
Isla Boca Brava, Panama
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About the DuVal Lab Manakin Research

This project is conducted on a 46 ha area of secondary growth dry tropical forest at the eastern end of Isla Boca Brava, Chiriquí Province, Panamá. The dry tropical forest ecosystem has a long dry season and is predominated by deciduous trees that leaf out dramatically as the rains start in April and May each year. Lance-tailed Manakins thrive in the thick underbrush that grows beneath the canopy and are abundant on the study site. Lance-tailed manakins are listed as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN. As the pace of development accelerates in Panama, clear-cutting of undergrowth is the primary factor affecting where manakins occur.

The Lance-tailed Manakins on Isla Boca Brava have been monitored by Emily DuVal and colleagues since 1999 as part of a long-term study of cooperation and mate choice. Current research on variability in cooperative decisions is funded by a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (# 1453408). The current project builds on DuVal’s previous work in this population, which was supported by the National Science Foundation; The Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL; The Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany; the University of California at Berkeley, and the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration. Landowner Frank Koehler has kindly granted field site access for the duration of this long-term work.

About The Male Manakins

The alpha-beta pair at this site features alpha WWmY (banded white-white on left leg; metal over yellow on right leg) and beta YWmF (banded yellow-over-white on left, metal-over-pink (“fluorescent”) on right).

Courtship And Breeding

Lance-tailed Manakins, like other species in the genus Chiroxiphia, court females using complex multi-male displays. The webcam shows one display perch in the display area of one pair of males. However, these two males also perform displays on two other perches in their display area, albeit less frequently. The monitored region consists of 29 males and their display partners, with display areas of adjacent alphas usually separated by at least 50 meters. 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 form long-term two-male alliances. Partners 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. 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.

Female Choice At The Lek

Female Lance-tailed Manakins move widely among display areas in this lek mating system, typically observing displays by 4-6 pairs of males before choosing their mates. After mating, females nest outside of their mate’s display area and raise their young without any male assistance. Though males apparently contribute only sperm to their offspring, mate choice matters: the offspring of more genetically diverse males are more likely to survive.

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