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Grafton Wildlife Sanctuary, Tobago

Photo courtesy Dr. Steve M.R. Young

This bird is resident on Tobago but not found on Trinidad. The Tobago sub-species (Chiroxiphia pareola atlantica) is larger and has brighter colours on the crest and mantle than the South American sub-species. This bird is black with a scarlet "V" shaped crown patch and blue back. The legs are orange. The female is different from the male being olive green and heavily tinged yellow on the underparts. Its legs are yellow. Their size is approximately 5 inches ( 12.7cm) and weight 19 grams. The immature are similar to the male.

In the same manner as other manakins, the males of this species have a display procedure for attracting females, however unlike other manakins where the males compete against each other, the males of this species conduct a joint display. The displays take place on low perches in the undergrowth of secondary forest, especially where there is a tangle of woody lianas close to the ground, the horizontal or nearly horizontal portions of the lianas forming the actual perches. The perches are on bare branches as the birds clear the leaves from surrounding branches. In each lek there is a dominant male which calls up other males, using a special "summoning" call; the summoned bird will approach, also calling, and the two birds will then break into a bout of calling in unison from the trees above the display perch. This will regularly be followed by the joint dance on the perch itself.

In the joint dance, the dominant male jumps and flies backward over another subordinate male which moves forward while the jump is taking place and then jumps backward over the dominant male. Two males will also alternately jump up and down on the perch while uttering a buzzing note, so that the two birds jumping alternately produce a rhythmic twanging. If a female lands on the perch, they face her and continue the dance. Copulation itself is preceded by a quite different, silent display, performed by a single male, presumed to be the "owner" of the display perch. Generally only the dominant male mates with the female. David Snow has postulated that joint displays between two or more males have presumably evolved because they are more conspicuous and so more attractive to females than displays by single males. Steven Hilty in writing about the work of Mercedes Foster in Costa Rica has stated that "the subdominant males are not as altruistic as they might seem. There are chances for stolen copulations and eventually they may replace the dominant male. This long period of cooperation is therefore more beneficial than performing alone when there is probably no chance of attracting a female".

Females lead very solitary lives, only joining with males to breed. They perform all the nesting duties.

Family - Manakins

Other Names - Tobago Manakin

Latin Name - Chiroxiphia pareola

Range - From Colombia southwards through Venezuela and Brazil, into the Guianas and on Tobago.


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Gilpin Trace, Tobago

Photo courtesy Stuart Elsom

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Birds of Venezuela. Steven L. Hilty. 2003, Christopher Helm, London

Birds of Tropical America, Steven L. Hilty. 1994, Chapters Publishing, Vermont.

A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd edition, Richard ffrench. 1992, Helm, London

David W. Snow, 1963. The Display Of The Orange-Headed Manakin. The Condor, Vol. 65:44-48.

D. W. Snow1971. Social Organization Of The Blue-Backed Manakin. The Wilson Bulletin, Vol. 1, 35 - 38

Gary Graves, Mark Robbins, and J. V. Remsen Jr., 1983. Age and Sexual Difference in Spatial Distribution and Mobility in Manakins (Pipridae): Inferences from Mist-Netting. Journal of Field Ornithology Vol. 54, 407 - 412

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Last modified: February 16, 2008