Leks, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll

            While on quick afternoon jungle jaunt along Irish Creek something rustled in the underbrush.  Upon closer inspection, the sound was a couple seconds of whirring followed by a loud snapping noise – similar to twigs being broken.  A small black and yellow bird extended its white throat feathers and made some whistles with whirring noises between each of several hops, hops made along a cleanly groomed circular arena on the forest floor.  During each hop it would make a loud snapping sound, POP! presumably made by using its wings.  Devoid of sticks or leaves, several other male individuals of White-collared Manakins (Manacus candei) waited in line at the dancing arena for their turn to display for the watchful eyes of a nearby female.  We had discovered a lekking site, where males have an arena where proximity to the center relates to social hierarchy and females watch alongside to evaluate potential mates.  Typically the alpha male is in the center and sires the vast majority of the offspring, with subordinant individuals descending in rank as they are further from the center.  Manakins (Pipridae) are well known in the ornithological realm for their breeding behaviors and methods of making sound.  Unlike many other bird species – Manakins’ fame come from their ability to make sonations; or non-vocal sounds.  The variety of methods that have arisen through natural selection is astounding, whether it be the snap, crackle, and pop noises of the White-collared (Manacus candei), the snaps and the accompanying moonwalk (aka MJ) of the Red-capped (Pipra mentalis) along a branch, or the unique metallic pinging from the Club-winged Manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus) made by stridulating a modified feather against another.


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