We All Like a Good Lek

There’s a couple places where we’ve mentioned leks on this blog before–primarily where grouse have been involved–but the first happens to be from 2012, when I was sharing about another bird from the same family as the species shown in the video below. That was the Club-winged Manakin, which I caught on video with a small point-and-shoot camera looking through a guide’s spotting scope. As I explained back then, lek is a Swedish word that has come to mean competitive displays between males of a species to become the breeding choice of one or more females of the same species, most often in the avian world. This time, I got some video from my hand-held (and a tad shaky) Canon Powershot SX50:

In the video above, you can watch one, and then two, male Long-tailed Manakins call and flutter together in the woods just off-trail at Xandari Resort, perhaps as a display for a female, or maybe just as a rehearsal, which has been observed in birds-of-paradise, and seems likely based on the fact that typically the female is frequently present even on the same vine as the males during their performance, so that she can closely compare between the competitors.

The Long-tailed Manakin, Chiroxiphia linearis, is a year-round resident at Xandari, and one interesting thing I learned about the species in some extra reading was that the two displaying males are known as the alpha and beta males of a certain area, and are partners for quite some time in not only their performances but also in daily life (e.g. finding fruit or the occasional insect to eat) during the lekking season. To become a beta male, the average manakin in this species needs to wait about eight years (which is three years after they’ve acquired their full, fancy breeding plumage), or ten to twelve to become alpha (and therefore breeding) male. The bird is found from the western side of southern Mexico to the middle of Costa Rica, in tropical forests with lots of ground vegetation. Here in Costa Rica people know this manakin as the toledo, for the call that you can hear at the beginning of the video above.

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