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Manakins

Manakins hold a place of distinction among the ranks of colorful bird species that live in the rainforests of Tambopata. Tanagers may dazzle with glittering plumage, toucans might steal the canopy show with their big, brightly colored bills, and the colors of macaws are as loud as their screeching voices but none of these birds do a song and dance like the manakins.

Small birds of the rainforest understory, male manakins show off their bright colors with fancy displays meant to attract the much duller females. Not any old spot will serve for their dancing displays either. Depending on the species, they choose areas of the forest with thin saplings, a bit of bare ground, or even a flat log to perform their dances. Some lift and rattle their wings, others shake their tails back and forth, and many do sudden, little jumps into the air accompanied by an abrupt call.

There are nine species of manakins that occur in the Amazon jungle that surrounds the eco-lodges run by Rainforest Expeditions. The most commonly seen species with bright plumage and courtship displays are the Band-tailed Manakin, the Round-tailed Manakin, and the Fiery-capped Manakin. The Band-tailed is named after the white band on its black tail even though the male has beautiful yellow and red plumage. The male Round-tailed Manakin is velvet black with a bright red head and yellow thighs whereas the aptly named Fiery-capped has reddish streaks on the underparts and a bright red and yellow crown.

Some interesting facts about manakins of the Amazon:
  • Frugivores: Most manakin species have a diet largely consisting of fruits. They pick small berries from understory plants while hovering and are rarely seen in the canopy. The males may have evolved such bright plumage and courtship behaviors because they don’t need to move around as much to find food and are thus much more difficult for predators to catch.

  • Mechanical noises: Some species make noises that sound downright mechanical in nature. Studies have shown that such noises are not vocal but are produced by modified feathers in the wings.

  • A Dutch name: Manakins were named after “mannekij”, the Dutch word for “little man”.
How to see more manakins on Amazon jungle tours to Tambopata, Peru:
  • Watch for fruiting plants in the understory: As with many rainforest birds, if you can find their food sources, you will find the bird. Fruiting trees can be a scarce resource so once manakins find them, they will be reluctant to leave the area.

  • Walk with a trained guide: Despite their bright colors, manakins can be surprisingly difficult to see. Their small size and penchant to remain perched for long periods of time make them tough to find. Go on a rainforest hike with a trained guide though and you have a much better chance of seeing these little jungle sprites as he or she will be familiar with their calls and might know where they have been spotted.
Go on a family friendly Amazon adventure tour with Rainforest Expeditions and see brightly colored manakins in the Peruvian jungle.

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