The male Golden-winged Manakin spends most of its time calling or preening on perches in their display arenas, foraging on small fruits, or displaying on or near fallen mossy logs as part of an exploded lek. Females forage alone or as part of mixed species flocks but are most dependably observed as an audience to log or branch displays.
As in all truly lek mating species (Bradbury 1981), males maintain display arenas that contain opportunities to mate but may lack traditional territorial resources sufficient for reproduction. Males issue nurrt calls from various perches within their established arenas. Definitive-plumage males occupy zones of 25-40 m containing one or multiple display logs (Prum and Johnson 1987). During the breeding season, males spend up to 90% of the time in their arenas (Prum and Johnson 1987). Floating males may display on a given log, but arrival at a log of an established displaying male in definitive plumage tends to drive off pre-definitive males in the middle of a display (Liam Taylor, personal observations).
The male Golden-winged Manakin displays on mossy logs within its display zones, and may display alone, in conjunction with other males, or for an audience of a female or a pre-definitive male. These dead logs typically rest slightly elevated above the slope. Less frequently, the bent trunks of living trees (Nicholas Oakley and Liam Taylor, personal observations), or buttress roots (Prum and Johnson 1987) also may serve as display sites. When not displaying, the male frequently "gardens" its logs, including clearing sticks, vines, or leaves from a ca 30 cm section of the log, to maintain an open display site on the log. On some occasions, a male flies onto a display log with a small stick or leaf in its bill, dropping this object to the side of the display area. Males also may scratch or chip at the bark of the log with their bill, although the purpose of this behavior is unclear (Liam Taylor, personal observations).
Male displays follow two main routines: log-approach displays and side-to-side bowing displays. These are described below, based on Prum and Johnson (1987), supplemented with additional details from Nicholas Oakley and Liam Taylor (personal observations).
Log-approach displays: The male begins a log-approach display from a consistent sub-canopy perch. From this perch, a male flies towards the down-slope end of the display log. As he crosses the display area, he simultaneously tips his head down and performs an aerial roll. These gymnastics result in the bird landing on the log facing down-slope. The male then immediately rebounds into the air and, powered by four wing beats, pitches 180° to land facing up-slope. In human gymnastics, the rebound would be described as a "full front layout with half twist".
When a female is present on the display log, she perches on the display area of the log and watches the male. The male performs the aerial rebound parallel to the log and over the female. As he touches down on the log, the male stands angled perpendicular to the log, his head nearly touching the surface. This posture clearly exposes his back and nape to the female. While holding this posture, the male rapidly flicks his tail from side to side. At least occasionally, females may touch a male's nape feathers with their bills, suggesting the possibility of chemical communication (David McDonald, personal observations).
This display routine is somewhat variable, particularly across definitive and pre-definitive males. Pre-definitive hatch year males sometimes perform only one or a few elements of the routine (e.g., a flight approach/landing without aerial gymnastics, or a standing flip with no flight approach). Log-approach displays are generally accompanied by a display call (see Vocalizations) but also may be silent.
Side-to-side bowing display: Either independently or following a log-approach display, the male also displays on the log by puffing up its body plumage, cocking the tail slightly, and repeatedly bowing its head from side-to-side while shuffling a few steps on the display area of the log. A male begins by bowing his head so that it is nearly touching the log, in most cases facing parallel to the log. He then straightens up, quickly shuffles to the other side of the display area, rotates, and begins to repeatedly bow again. When another bird is present, the displaying male bows his head so that he is facing away from that individual, again displaying his nape. When a female is present on the log, she generally stands perpendicular to the male as he bows facing away from her. Continuous side-to-side dancing can exceed a minute, during which time a male can perform several dozen bows facing both directions on the log (Nicholas Oakley, personal observations).
The male occasionally hovers towards or around a display log in a slow-flapping “butterfly flight” (Nicholas Oakley and Liam Taylor, personal observations).
Currently, no evidence exists for Golden-winged Manakin displays above the canopy, unlike in related species such as White-throated Manakin (Corapipo gutturalis; Davis 1982, Prum 1986). However, recent observations suggest an additional male display element that takes place on sub-canopy branches rather than on display logs (Nicholas Oakley and Liam Taylor, personal observations). In these "branch displays", the male begins by perching on the center of dead, bare, twiggy branch beneath the canopy of a tree within ca 30 m of his display log. The male flies away from the branch for ca 2 s, then dives rapidly past the branch. As the male passes the perching location on the display branch, he flashes gold on his wings and make the same rapid nurrt call as in final note of the log-approach display. If the female is present, she observes this display from the central perch location on the branch. As during log activities, males appear to "practice" this branch display when no female is present. The precise relationship between this branch display and the better-known log-approach display is currently unknown.
Copulation occurs on a display log after a male display containing both log-approach and side-to-side bowing routines (Nicholas Oakley, personal observations).
Social and interspecific behavior
Males occasionally participate in coordinated displays that involve flips over one another during alternative log-approach displays and/or simultaneous side-to-side bowing displays (Prum and Johnson 1987). This coordination is rare relative to solo displays, and can occur between an established, definitive male and both definitive or pre-definitive males (Prum and Johnson 1987; Nicholas Oakley and Liam Taylor, personal observations). When a definitive male departs from his display zone, multiple pre-definitive males may display at that site at the same time, although these concurrent displays lack "coordination" in the usual sense (Nicholas Oakley and Liam Taylor, personal observations). Although green birds of unknown sex can been seen as audience to these displays, no positively-identified females have been observed during multi-male displays. Most or all courtship displays for a females observer are performed alone by an arena's primary male (Prum and Johnson 1987' Nicholas Oakley and Liam Taylor, personal observations).
Manakins (Pipridae) exhibit an interesting spectrum of coordinated courtship display, from obligate cooperative dual-male song-and-dance in Long-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia linearis) (McDonald 2010) to individual displays in species such as Club-winged Manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus) (Bostwick 2000). Male Masius may therefore represent an interesting intermediate stage in the evolution of cooperative courtship display, similar to some other manakins such as Wire-tailed Manakin (Pipra filicauda) (Ryder et al. 2008).
Golden-winged Manakins interact with other species infrequently and are only infrequent and loosely associated members of mixed pecies foraging flocks. Video evidence shows that non-manakin bird species (e.g., Zeledon's Antbird Hafferia zeledoni and Chestnut-capped Brushfinch Arremon brunneinucha) frequently walk across or land on display logs, but the manakins never remain on the logs in the presence of other species (Liam Taylor, personal observations).