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Manakins: Pipridae

Long-tailed Manakin (chiroxiphia Linearis): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The female and male long-tailed manakin look very different. Females are about 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) in length, while males are 8.5 to 10.5 inches (21 to 27 centimeters) long. The difference in length is due to the male's much longer central tail feathers. Females are olive green with orange legs and feet. Males are black with a blue back and red crest on the head. Young males do not develop full adult coloration until they are four years old.

Geographic range: Long-tailed manakins are found in the western part of southern Mexico, and along the western edge of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

Habitat: Long-tailed manakins live in thick, dense forests, along forest borders, and along the edge of mangrove swamps.

Two or three male long-tailed manakins often make their displays for females together at a lek. The dominant male mates with the females, and the other males work on perfecting their displays. (Kenneth W. Fink/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Like other manakins, these birds eat berries and insects.

Behavior and reproduction: Long-tailed manakins put on one of the more spectacular displays of lekking. A pair, or occasionally three males, do a coordinated dance in which the birds sit on a horizontal branch. One jumps and hovers above the branch. When he lands, the other bird jumps and hovers. This dance is accompanied by a song, with each bird singing a distinct part. One male is dominant, and almost always gets to mate with the female.

Scientists have wondered why the non-dominant male participates in this time and energy consuming courtship ritual when he does not get to mate, despite all the effort he has put out. They have concluded that pairs of male long-tailed manakins stay together in a loose relationship for up to ten years. The non-dominant male practices his singing and dancing and waits for the dominant male to die or leave the lek. He then becomes the dominant male, mating with the females and taking on an apprentice of his own. This pattern is made possible because these birds live for up to fifteen years.

Long-tailed manakins and people: Long-tailed manakins are one of the better-studied species in this family. Scientists have recorded the courtship behavior of this bird in detail. These birds may have an indirect positive impact on the local economy by attracting birdwatchers and ecotourists to the region.

Conservation status: Long-tailed manakins are common in the locations where they live. They are not in danger of extinction. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsManakins: Pipridae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Long-tailed Manakin (chiroxiphia Linearis): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, MANAKINS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS