White-bearded Manakin Manacus manacus

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Pipridae
  • Polytypic: 15 subspecies
  • Authors: Lindsey Tu, Casey McCabe, and Wendy Tori

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


White-bearded Manakins are notable for the loud sounds produced their lekking displays, with vocalizations that can be heard from a considerable distance (Ridgely and Tudor 1994). White-bearded Manakins produce an assortment of simple calls. The usual call, made by both sexes and unconnected to display, is a slightly trilled peerr. For a representative audio recording with sonogram, see audio

When males are excited by the presence of a female they produce a loud, high-pitched chwee, and begin snapping and displaying (see Nonvocal sounds). A distinct cheepu also is often made before the beginning of a set of displays. A variation of the peer call, which sounds like peee-you or pee-yuk, is made by males at the lek for a variety of reasons but is not produced in the presence of females. When juvenile males are practicing displays together, they often make a soft pu call (Snow 1962).

Nonvocal Sounds

In all species of Manacus, the male has a modified wing structure, with stiffened remiges, with thickened, bowed shafts and stiff outer webs. Additionally, the distals portions of five outer five primaries are very narrow and stiff (Kirwan and Green 2011). These wing modifications are the source of the extraordinary snapping sounds produced by male Manacus in displays at the lek. These displays have long been known, but the details of the production of the snapping sounds was elucidated only recently (Bostwick and Prum 2003), which is the primary source for the following descriptions:

White-bearded Manakin produces six distinct nonvocal sounds: the snap, roll-snap, snort, rattle, whirr, and fanning.

The snap sounds like a sharp snap or crack. This sound is made by hitting the dorsal surfaces of the wings together above the back during flight and is part of the “snap-jump” display.

For a representative audio recording with sonogram, see audio

The roll-snap consists of many snap sounds made in quick succession and sounds like a long, loud crrrackkk! The mechanism is the same as a snap but is performed repeatedly while perched on a horizontal branch.

The snort is a low flatulent sound that is produced by flicks of the primary feathers during a modified shallow wing-beat. It is produced during the "grunt-jump" display as the male jumps from the court to his perch.

The rattle sounds like a low nasal snicker and is produced more infrequently during short flights around the territory. This sound has not been analyzed intensively but it is hypothesized that it is made in a similar manner as the snort, using modified primary feathers.

The whirrs sound like a soft, reedy whirring and are made commonly during normal flight. As the movements made during the production of these noises appears identical to normal flight, it may not be voluntary and may simply be the sound produced by the modified primaries moving through the air during flight.

Fanning is similar to a continuous reedy rustling. It is the slowest mechanical sound produced and is produced for up to several minutes by a perched male, normally in the direction of an approaching female. This sound is also produced by flicks of the modified primaries.

Recommended Citation

Tu, L., C. McCabe, and W. Tori (2013). White-bearded Manakin (Manacus manacus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.