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Manakins are little, elegant, vibrant birds, both in colour and in behaviour. They are found across South and Central America from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, and in Trinidad and Tobago as well. They live in tropical forests, and here in Guyana, we have over fifteen different kinds of manakin. The males are much more colourful than females, often with bright yellow, blue, red or white heads. In contrast the females are usually a plain olive green all over. They feed on small fruits and insects that they

Male Golden-Headed Manakin (Photo by Jake Bicknell)
Male Golden-Headed Manakin (Photo by Jake Bicknell)

forage throughout the forest floor and understory.

But the most spectacular thing about manakins is their mating strategy; males compete for the attentions of the female in a mass dance-off called a ‘lek’. To do this they perform an elaborate display of jumping, flying, and even something similar to Michael Jackson’s iconic ‘Moon Walk’ along a branch. Some species have modified wings that they can use to make buzzing and snapping sounds as part of this elaborate courtship dance, to attract the drab coloured females.

This Golden-Headed Manakin male (pictured), was captured and released as part of research in the Region 9 village of Surama. He is only 9 cm tall, and when he tries to court a female, he may be competing against up to 12 other brightly coloured males at their ‘lek’. Wish him luck.

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