White-bearded Manakin forages in shrubby forest edges, and searches for fruit in trees, bushes and shrubs along with foraging among low growing herbs (Snow 1962).
Food Capture and Consumption
White-bearded Manakins sally to pick fruit, although they will pluck fruit from a perch if the fruits are easily accessible. They swallow fruit whole when possible, but also will eat fruit much larger than other birds of their size by rolling the fruit around in their beaks, softening the fruit until it can be swallowed. White-bearded Manakins also pluck insects from leaves and trees when they are available, but they make up a significantly smaller portion of their diet (Snow 1962). Marini (1992) suggests that White-beareded Manakins also participate in mixed species flocks while foraging.
Drinking, pellet-casting, and defecation
In Trinidad White-bearded Manakins drink much of their water from the bracts of Heliconia wagneriana. They also drink from streams though they do so less often (Snow 1962).
Anting behavior has been documented in White-bearded Manakins as a tool for plumage maintenance to improve mating success. Male White-bearded Manakins were observed picking up Solenopsis sp. ants and rubbing them on their undertail feathers until the ants disintegrated.. The ants contain formic acid which functions as an insecticide, bactericidal, and a fungicide. This practice is connected to feather maintenance and reduction of parasite load (Cestari 2010).
White-bearded Manakin males spend most of their time at communal displaying sites (leks). The largest lek found by Snow (1962) in Trinidad contained 70 display courts and had an area of 18.3 x 9.2 m (167 m2). Olson and McDowell (1983) found that their sample lek had an area of 266 m2. In Trinidad, the average distance between leks was 371 m and in Suriname it was 706 m (Olson and McDowell 1983).
Within the lek, each male maintains a small, (0.6-1 m diameter) court on the forest floor, from which the ground is cleared of leaves and debris. This court is where they perform a variety of individual displays usually with many other males in close proximity (Snow 1962). White-bearded Manakin leks are considered classical leks because males can both see and hear each other. Males remain in their territories 76-85% of the day (Théry 1992). Although competition for courts is very strong, after courts have been established there is little aggression between males. Males without established courts sometime receive aggression, consisting of prolonged flight chases and physical attacks, if intruding in an already established area (Snow 1962). In his sample area, Théry found that adult males had home ranges of 2.1-2.5 ha, juvenile males had home ranges of 20.1-20.3 ha and females had home ranges of 13.4-14.1 ha. Male home ranges including one lek and one bathing site while female home ranges included two leks and two bathing sites (Théry 1992). Females also maintain nesting territories near streams (Snow 1962).
Mating System and Sex Ratios
White-bearded Manakins are promiscuous, with both males and females mating multiply system (Snow 1962). Lek placement follows the hotspot model and is related to areas of high food abundance. These areas of high food abundance create high female traffic during foraging. This allows males to encounter the maximum number of females as well as have shorter foraging distances and times. Classical lekking species, such as M. manacus, and double-spot lekking species were found to have larger female home ranges and more spread out lek distributions than exploded lekking species. Also leks with smaller male-male neighbor distances within the leks, such as in M. manacus, where found to have more spread out lek-lek distributions (Thery 1992).
White-bearded Manakins do not maintain long term pair bonds. The female builds the nest, lays and incubates the eggs, and rears the young with no assistance from the male (Snow 1962).
White bearded Manakins are one of the nosiest lek forming manakins. Males display all year and only abate while molting. Within the lek, males maintain a small area on the forest floor from which the ground is cleared of leaf litter and roots are stripped white. Males continuously clear the areas throughout the day. These "courts" may be directly adjacent to one another or up to yards apart depending on the suitability of the habitat (Snow 1962). Research has suggested that leks may be organized genetically by kin selection and that groups of courts within these leks may also arranged according to relatedness. Because larger leks have been shown to attract more females, increasing the size of a relative’s lek may lead to increased fitness of the relative and the individual and therefore increasing derict fitness and indirect inclusive fitness. Shorey et al. (2000) found that within a lek one group of territories showed very high average relatedness while the other two groups showed lower average relatedness.
Six different displays are performed below eye level with or without the presence of a female, on two or more vertical saplings around the edge of the court. The most common type of display is the snap-jump. During this display, the male perches horizontally on one sapling, with his "beard" feathers extended, then, while making a loud, mechanical snap, leaps to an adjacent sapling. This rapid display may be repeated several times in quick succession. A snap-jump often is followed by another display, the grunt-jump. The grunt-jump begins similarly with the male perched horizontally, beard extended before very rapidly jumping to the ground, rotating mid-air to land facing the sapling, and then leaping back to the same perch while emitting a snort or grunt like sound. Sometimes after a grunt-jump the male may move, using very short and quick steps, down the sapling several inches while beating his wings. This display is known as slide down the pole and, when preceded by a grunt-jump, indicates the end of display and is immediately followed by copulation. The three other types of display are fanning, during which the male leans forward on his perch, sways from side to side, and rapidly beats his wings, the rolled-snap, where the male leans forward and produces a loud, mechanical roll-snap sound by rapidly vibrating his wings together, and the upright posture, in which the male assumes an upright posture on his perch with his beard feathers extended (Snow 1962).
Females most often visit courts in the early morning and mid-afternoon and their arrival triggers vocalization and especially intense and vigorous displays from the males though males continue to display throughout the day (Snow 1962). Théry (1962) found that 79% of all displaying occurred before 09:30 hours and in the afternoon, between 13:00 and 16:00 hours. Females visit courts in small groups early in the season and, later, individually. When a single female enters a male’s court he will perform a very coordinated dance with the female, which may result in copulation. After the full precopulatory display is completed, the male performs a grunt-jump to the sapling above the female and then performs slide down the pole onto her as she is perched horizontally at the base. Copulation takes place with the male having one foot on the perch and the other on the female’s back (Snow 1962).
Social and interspecific behavior
White-bearded Manakins usually are solitary when away from the lek.