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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Club-winged Manakin, Tropical Rainforest Wonder

Club-winged Manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus)

When I started this blog I wanted to provide information on the various birds of Ecuador. However, what I accomplished was repost technical articles on the different species that I had already written. In an effort to dispense more pertinent material I have decided to give my personal observation on the varied birds and direct the reader to my other articles to get more technical information. I hope this makes for a more pleasurable experience.

So today I want to talk about the Club-winged Manakin, an unusual bird that inhabits the tropical rainforests of Ecuador and Columbia. For technical information on this species please see my article titled “Club-winged Manakin – Tropical Rainforest Casanova”.

Manakins are fascinating in that they are the only bird species that manifest “stridulation”, the rubbing of two specific body parts together to produce a sound. This is used in the mating rituals of the male to attract a suitable mate. When encountering a Manakin “lek”, a social meeting place for this unique creature, one can expect frantic activity and a cacophony of strange, melodious sounds.

Milpe Bird Sanctuary in the Mindo Valley is a wonderful place to encounter this captivating bird. When you arrive you need to head for the first overlook (Mirador 1). Here you will find a sign indicating the Club-winged Manakin trail. Travel this path about 100 m and you will come to a small hide where you can sit and enjoy the festivities. On my last visit I had the reserve to myself so I was able to relax and observe these lively birds during their courtship dances. If you remain quiet and still, the males will come within a few yards providing an excellent view. Since this species is often seen and not heard, this location furnishes an unprecedented opportunity for the avid birder. A Japanese movie company had just recently been there to do a documentary on the Club-winged Manakin.
Male with wings lifted
to produce mating call

The male birds are very active, jumping from branch to branch, using the stridulation of their wings to attract a curious female. Several males will be within close proximity barking out metallic sounding noise with their wings. Although these birds inhabit the sub-canopy of the tropical rainforest, with the proper equipment it is possible to record this activity with little difficulty. The mating rituals will continue for many hours, increasing in intensity if a female shows interest. The males will then compete for the affections of the feminine visitor. It is not much different than what you would see if sitting in a bar observing the courtship habits of humans.

I had a rewarding visit to Milpe and a delightful morning with the Club-winged Manakin. I visit this sanctuary quite often and I never tire of observing this unique and wonderful bird. I would recommend this trip to anyone who wishes to encounter one of the wonders of nature. 

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