Lance-tailed Manakins

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 new occupants at this site in early March 2021 were WWmY and YWmF (white-white on left leg; metal over yellow on right leg; and yellow-over-white on left, metal-over-pink(“fluorescent”) on right). 

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 (a rookie mistake) 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.  

Other males around are:

mPVP: red-cap (SY) plumage metal-purple(mauve); dark green – purple
mPOA: red-cap (SY) plumage – metal-purple(mauve);orange-dark blue.

Both mPVP and mPOA were newly banded a few weeks ago, and there is at least one unbanded red-cap and one unbanded “cerulean back” (third year) male as well, who we will be catching and banding in coming weeks.

As of 2016, there have been more than two thousand individual Lance-tailed Manakins banded on Isla Boca Brava. There is naturally high mortality for chicks, with only about 30% of nests fledging in a “good year” – but adults can live very long lives. Our oldest male this year has band #339 and was banded as a second-year male in 2001.

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