A Song for May 26

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Click the sonogram to hear and see the sound.

Listen to the toledo song of the Long-tailed Manakin for a while and notice its haunting, ethereal quality. It is a signature sound of the Central American rainforest. Along with the songs of trogons and motmots, it gives these places a certain stateliness, which belies all the biological activity actually happening. When I first heard this sound, and about these birds, from David McDonald's talks at ornithological meetings in the 1980s, I never dreamed I would hear them in the wild, or see the blue-backed gems who made them. But thanks to Josue de León Lux, who guided my search for flycatchers at Los Tarrales, I both saw and heard them.

Manakins have been known for a long time to have elaborate courtship displays. McDonald and others revealed that males of this species form partnerships, and perform as a team. Their dance is vigorous and hilarious to watch, for humans. The toledo song presented here is the invitation to females to come and watch, and mate. Also in this cut are a short series of popcorn calls at 0:15 and a whiney waanh call after 1:22. For more on their vocalizations, visit Dan Mennill's manakin page.

Listen one more time. The song is a duet. The two males are singing together. The overlapping traces of the sonograms of toledo tell you two birds are vocalizing, but if you have any doubts, watch the video below.

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