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Moonwalking Manakin Bird in the Amazon - Move Over MJ

  |   Wildlife & Flora

Red-Capped Manakin Bird

Red-Capped Manakin Bird

Move over MJ - or for those who know their dance history, move over James Brown - the male red-capped manakin now owns the Amazonian dance flora (can you see what I did there). 

Red-Capped Manakin Bird (Ceratopipra mentalis) 

At breeding time (typically after office hours between February and June), us brightly colored males of this exhibitionist little bird species head to the local disco dance floor, a designated courtship and mating area called a "lek", and pick out the best spot we can find to shake our tail feather. The most slender and straightest horizontal branches free from foliage get snapped up first as they are prime viewing real estate on which to put on a display. Being a superstitious bunch (oh no wait, that was Stevie Wonder), we'll be using the same perch for an entire breeding season. Then it's time for us to get up off that thing and seduce the watching females.

You would think that such exquisite footwork would suffice to dazzle even the most demanding of females, but not the manakin girls. Oh no, they want tap-dancing too, a bit of leg, some aerial acrobatics and even some snappy, buzzing and whirring noises. Oh and it has to be in the right order too.

My dad taught me the four displays to use: the about-face, where I have to pivot back and forth and reveal my yellow leggings; the backward-slide, more famously known as the moonwalk; the snap-back, where I dart back and forth between my perch and the surrounding vegetation, snapping my wings each time I leave the perch; and the flight-finale, where I fly in circles several feet away and return to the perch for the big ta-da finish.

Quite the song and dance I think you'll agree. Apparently the sounds I have to make are just as important as the moves, not only to attract girls but also to warn other males to keep their distance and dancing shoes in the nest, but so far my moves have only attracted ridicule from both sexes.

As the more coordinated alpha male takes the spoils, us nerdy manakins are left to amuse ourselves with how our gonads regress during the heavy rainfalls of October to January, or how quickly any fruit we eat seems to pass through our digestive system - a staggering 18 minutes or less.

Maybe I'll have better luck with twerking next year. Try to spot me on your Amazon River cruise!

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