Golden-winged Manakin feeds on the small fruits of families such as Melastomataceae, Boraginaceae, Poaceae, Rubiaceae, and Santalaceae, having the closest association with melastomes of the genus Miconia (Prum and Johnson 1987, Restrepo et al. 2002); occasionally also feeds on small insects (Prum and Johnson 1987).
The yellow crown, wing, and tail feathers are colored primarily by canary xanthophyll B, a metabolically modified carotenoid derived from the dietary carotenoid zeaxanthin (Hudon et al. 2007).
Golden-winged Manakin takes short sallying flights to pick fruit or, more rarely, to catch insects.
Usually forages solitarily, but occasionally may be loosely associated with mixed species flocks (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Guevara 2011). Direct observations indicate that the frequency of mixed species flock attendance can differ by population (Prum and Johnson 1987). It is unclear whether such variation is due to genetic or cultural variation between populations, or if it is a response to underlying ecological factors.
Unlike males of Long-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia linearis), male Golden-winged Manakin seems to regurgitate few seeds when perched in the vicinity of the display log (David McDonald, personal observations).