Golden-headed Manakin

(Pipra erythrocephala)

One of the main attractions on our Discovery Trail is the lek of the Golden-headed Manakins. This lek, an area amid our many acres of forest, is a spot where one can witness moves reminiscent of the late Michael Jackson’s moon walk. After observing a group of male Manakins dancing on tree branches you may find yourself unsure of the original inventor of such a dance. Yes, Manakins are birds famous for highly crafted courtship displays and Golden-headed Manakins, for their mimicry of these backward steps.

Display is saved only for the female, who ultimately mates with the bird that shows the greatest skill in “dancing”. Golden-headed Manakins sport brilliantly golden heads atop their black bodies. Their thighs are white with red on the lower edges. Females, however, are a less radiant olive green while both sexes have pink legs. These birds are diminutive ones; only about 3.5 inches long. Apparently, the male calls to announce an impending display, repeating a short “pu” and increasing the tempo until it lands on the branch where it will begin to moon-walk.

These feisty birds are fond of Melastomaceae berries but will also eat beetles, caterpillars and other insects. They breed from January to August, immediately after which they moult until November. They make cup-shaped nests, which they hang between twigs, above ground. Like the heads of the males, the eggs are yellow, although it is a very light yellow with spots and brown lines at the broader end. It is also fascinating to note that only the female incubates these eggs.

On your next visit to the Asa Wright Nature Centre, a guided tour will provide you with the opportunity to see these birds in their natural habitat. Wouldn’t you like to witness these special displays?

– J.L. Ryan

References:

  • ffrench, Richard. 1991. A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago.
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