Manakins do not form bonded pairs when they mate, nor do the males stay with the female after mating to help build a nest or raise the young. The dominant, or strongest and most attractive, male mates with many females during the breeding season. Younger, less attractive males may not mate at all.
Manakins are best known for their spectacular courtship rituals. When a male wants to attract a female, he removes the leaves and twigs on the ground in a small area, often about 3 square feet (1 square meter). This area is called the lek or lek court. In some species, males clear areas next to each other, creating very large lek courts.
In most species of manakin, two unrelated males form a lek partnership where they sing and dance in a complex, coordinated pattern unique to their species. This activity is called lekking. Females come to the lek to watch and choose a mate. They may visit many lek courts and watch many displays before mating. Often male lek partnerships last for years. One bird is definitely dominant and gets to mate with the majority of females. The other bird is a sort of apprentice, apparently learning from the dominant male and perfecting his own display.
Lekking can go on for quite a while and requires a lot of energy. Some species of manakin have modified feathers that they use to make snapping or whirring noises while making short flights during lekking. Others do their coordinated song and dance full of hops and flutters along horizontal branches. In the end, the female makes her decision, and flies away to mate with the chosen male.
Females build a nest of grass, usually over water. They lay one or two eggs and incubate (keep warm for hatching) them for seventeen to twenty-one days. The chicks fledge, grow their flying feathers, in thirteen to fifteen days.
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