Manakin Moonwalk & Bicolored Antbird

Two juvenile bearded manakins (Manacus cf. aurantiacus) practice the moonwalk in the forests of the Pacific slopes of Costa Rica. They only perform these tiny consecutive backward hops on a carefully selected horizontal perch, occasionally accompanying their playful courtship display with a drumming sound produced by whipping the wings together. This video was really challenging to take, shooting through a small gap between leaves in the dense understory. Most manakins have a lek mating system with females choosing males with the most attractive courtship dances. In some species males select a courtship arena on the forest floor, clearing the area of distracting elements to spotlight the performance. Males will jump around the arena from thin saplings and wingsnap in mid-air repetitively, followed closely by a female if she expresses interest.


As millions of army ants (Eciton burchellii parvispinum) flood the forest floor as an unstoppable force, scavengers such as this bicolored antbird (Gymnopithys bicolor) follow closely to snatch up any prey items that attempt to evade the onslaught. The sheer number of ants during a raid causes quite the commotion and is hard to go unnoticed. Trails can extend dozens of meters wide and cover hundreds of meters in a single day. Before actually spotting army ants I can usually hear the faint sound of their tiny scurrying legs, becoming very noticeable once I reach them. Invertebrates and small vertebrates caught in the chaos will attempt to flee to prevent subduction by the ants. I’ve seen grasshoppers, cockroaches, and other insects become completely overtaken by the ants, latching on with powerful piercing mandibles. As for the arthropods that manage to escape an ant-covered fate, a clean-up crew of birds dance around on low vegetation keeping a keen eye for flailing prey. Several bicolored antbirds and gray-headed tanagers (Eucometis penicillata) were following these foraging army ants, allowing me to get a close look from just a few meters away as I also danced around the ants — with some sacrifice for the video footage.

Manakins and antbird filmed and photographed after pursuit [3]


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