Monday, March 4, 2013

Really Weird Birds: Part 13

A bird dancing like Michael Jackson?  That’s pretty weird! 

The most odd thing about the Red-capped Manakin bird is the male’s courtship display.  During his performance, he rapidly shuffles backwards across a branch demonstrating a dance called the moonwalk!
 A beautiful Red-capped Manakin (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
You have to see it to believe it!  Click here to see some amazing footage of this Michael Jackson wannabe.

The Red-capped Manakin is one of sixty species of Manakin birds.  Manakins use a lek mating system where males gather in a relatively small area to dance, call, and compete for the female’s attention.  Males are not monogamous, nor do the males help to raise their young.  A single male could inseminate all the local females.  Therefore competition for females is high and creates strong pressures for sexual selection.  Only the best dancers or dancer gets to mate! 

Manakins will use the movement of their wings to make interesting sounds during courtship.  They can move their wings faster than the eye can see at 80 beats per second, faster than a hummingbird!  Part of this video shows a mating dance in slow motion at 500 frames per second.  Humans only see at about 60 frames per second and an average camera sees about 90 frames per second.    

The Red-capped Manakin is a small passerine (all birds from the order Passeriformes), measuring 4 inches in length and weighing only 16 g (0.56 oz).  They are found from southeast Mexico south through Central America to Panama, and then along the Pacific slope of South America to northwest Ecuador.  They prefer mainly humid forests and second growth woodlands and are frugivores, eating mostly fruits.  These birds aid in the dispersal of seeds in the forest through the passing in their feces. 

Luckily the Red-capped Manakin is not listed as endangered or threatened.  However all birds and creatures native to rainforests are suffering from habitat loss every day.  If you want to help endangered birds, part of the World Bird Sanctuary’s mission is to secure the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments.  You can help us fulfill our mission by simply visiting us and spreading what you’ve learned, becoming a member or friend, or adopting-a-bird and helping to feed that bird for a year!

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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