Manikins and Cotingas
The manikins and cotingas are closely related to each other and quite closely related to the huge American family of tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannical). They are distinguished from the tyrant flycatchers by some anatomical characters and, more obviously, by the fact that they are mainly fruit-eaters rather than insect-eaters, and in most species, there are considerable differences between the sexes with males brilliantly colored. Courtship behavior is very elaborate.
Typical manikins (Piura, Manaus, Chiro-xiphias, and some smaller genera) are small, compact, highly active birds with short bills and large heads. They live in the understory of the forest, feeding on small fruits and insects which they take in rapid flight sally. Although semi-social in feeding and other routine activities they do not form pairs. The males spend a great deal of their time at traditional display sites, some species at communal display areas, others singly but usually within ear-shot of other males.
A large leak of the White-bearded manakin, one of the best-known species, is an extraordinary sight when in full activity. Each male clears a small “court” on the ground, within a few meters of its neighbors, and on and round it performs an astonish-in range of rapid maneuvers accompanied by sharp calls and loud snaps made by the modified wing feathers. The females visit the leeks solely for mating, carrying out all nesting duties single-handed, as is the rule in all manakins studied. They sling their delicate cup nests between two parallel or diverging twigs of some low plant, often beside a forest stream, and after an unusually long incubation period for a small bird (about r 9 days) feed the young by regurgitation on a mixed diet of insects and fruits.
Manikins of the largest genus, Piura, die-play on higher perches, usually 3-r ohm (io-33ft) above ground, on which they perform rapid slides, “about-faces,” “twists” and other maneuvers. The details vary accord-in to species, but a swift flight to the display perch, ending in a conspicuous landing, Isa feature of all of them. A unique feature of the display of the Wire-tailed manakin brings into play the elongated wire-like filaments that project from the tips of its tail feathers.
Backing towards the female, the male raises its posterior and rapidly twists its tail from side to side so that the filaments brush the female’s chin. The third main genus, Chiroxiphia, is supreme in the com-laxity of its displays. In the initial stages, two or more males perform a vocal duet fool-lowed by a synchronized joint dance before the female, while the final phase of the courtship, leading to mating, is carried out by the dominant male of the group alone.
The coatings are such a diverse family that practically no generalization applies to all species. At one extreme of size are the Kinglet calyptras, about 8cm (3in) longhand at the other the huge umbrella birds, the size of a crow. In proportion, they range from short-winged heavily built birds, for example, the Guiana red costing, to the long-winged, almost swallow-like purple tufts. In color form, they range from the most highly dimorphic species, with brilliantly ornamented males, to species in which both sexes are uniform gray or brown. In behavior, they are equally varied, with social systems ranging from conventional monogamy to extreme polygamy. It is by no means certain that they are monophyletic.
That is, more closely related to one another than any of them are to other groups of birds, and it may be that they are descended from several different lines that evolved from primitive tyrant flycatchers and became specialized for fruit-eating. Only new diverse types can be mentioned.
One group. The “typical” cotingas include the blue cotingas, the white-winged cotingas, and some other genera of medium-sized. Sexually highly dimorphic birds with short wide bills. They are preeminently birds of the forest treetops and for this reason, the details of their behavior are not well known, but in some species, and perhaps in all, the conspicuously colored males clad in blue, purple, or white—display aerially above the forest canopy, while the cryptically colored females (to judge from the few species whose nests are known) build tiny nests which they tend single-handed, laying a single egg.
Yet more highly dimorphic and with even wider, shorter hills that give the head an almost frog-like appearance are the four species of bellbirds. They are among the most specialized of fruit-eaters, their very wide gape enabling them to swallow com-operatively huge fruits for their size. Bellbirds are notable for the males’ extraordinarily loud calls, perhaps the loudest made by any bird, the main element of which is an explosive clang or “bock,” reminiscent of a hammer striking an anvil.
The call advertises the male on his display perch and is audible for a kilometer (o.6mi) or more. When a female ready for mating visits amole, a complex courtship ritual follows, which varies according to the species and culminates in a leap by the male, accompanied by a deafening “bock,” onto the female’s back. Male bellbirds display in. loose groups, occupying perches within ear-shot but not very close to each other.
The same type of display organization is found in some other cotingas, for instance, the umbrella birds, in which each male occupies a separate display tree and attracts females by uttering deep booming calls accompanied by visual displays. In a few species, the males display at much closer quarters. Thus in the calf bird, the males die-play in groups, occupying adjacent perches in the same tree. This species acquired its name from the strange lowing or “mooing “calls that accompany the males’ grotesque display movements.
The cocks-of-the-rock have developed communal displays to an extreme degree. In the Guiana cock-of-the-rock the males die-play in groups, each bird maintaining a Cleared “court” on the forest floor, a system similar to that of the White-bearded manakin. The main display is static: the male crouches in the middle of his court with the brilliant plumage spread and the head turned sideways so that the semi-circular topknot is fully displayed to the females who come into the trees above.
Asian so many of the manikins and cotingas, the details of the different phases of the courtship display are so complex that no brief description is adequate. The two cocks-of-the-rock are unique in their nesting habits: the female fixes her bracket-shaped nest of mud and rootlets, hardened with saliva, to a vertical rock face. Since suitableness sites are limited, several females may nest nearby. Unlike the other large cotingas, whose relatively tiny nests can hold only one egg and nestling, thecock-of-the-rock lays a two-egg clutch.
The brilliantly colored cotingas are mainly birds of tropical and subtropical forests. At temperate levels in the Andes are found several species with sober plumage, similar in both sexes, which live conventionally in pairs. These too are primarily fruit-eaters, feeding on the berries of montage shrubs and epiphytes. Some are highly specialized for particular fruits. Thus the White-cheeked costing of the Peruvian Andes is reported to feed solely on the fruits of two kinds of mistletoes, and it undoubtedly serves as their main dispersal agent because it wipes regurgitated seeds onto suitable tree branches and no other fruit-eating birds occur in its bleak montane habitat. These high-altitude cotingas build substantial cup nests, doubtless as an adaptation to the cold climate, and lay two or three eggs, with both parents attending thinnest.
Among the more aberrant cotingas, the four species of purple tufts are outstanding. These very small cotingas are long-winged and superficially martin-like. They take mistletoe fruits, but also hawk for flying insects from treetop perches above the forest canopy. The only purple tuft nest ever founds of a type unique in the cotingas, a tiny cup reminiscent of a hummingbird’s nest. The Kinglet calyptras are also very different from other cotingas. A tiny, very short-tailed bird about the size of a gold crest and much like a gold crest in color, it is known from a handful of specimens collected in the mountains of southeastern Brazil and ranks as one of the least known of birds, unreel-corded in this century although there is no obvious reason why it should have become extinct.
See more: Gnat Eaters