Studying Golden-Winged Manakins in Ecuador


Studying Golden-Winged Manakins in Ecuador


Research Question

How much detail can golden-winged manakins resolved in time and space, and does this ability exist in ancestral manakins?


Center for Global Studies International Internship/Fieldwork Grant


This research will allow us to quantify the quality of manakin vision as it relates to movement. It will allow us to make evolutionary connections to more primitive members of the manakin family. Finally, this research, mainly the video that will come from doing the work, could bring attention to a region of immense diversity that is currently threatened from a variety of anthropogenic disturbances.

Methods Used

I will utilize high-speed video technology to capture elaborate dance elements in order to determine at what rate a female bird would need to perceive motion in order for her to be able to fully realize the complexity of the male’s courtship display. From there, I will test her ability to distinguish between flickering and constant light, a good proxy for how well she could resolve motion in time, and compare the two results. We hope to do similar work with more basal members of the manakin family to see if there is an ancestral link to being able to perform such complex and rapid movements.


We hope to determine if the ability to see rapid movement is linked to the evolution of high speed display elements. We have very compelling footage that indicates my primary study species, the golden-winged manakin, would need to be able to see at record breaking rates in order to fully comprehend the male’s courtship display. First we want to use a more rigorous test to determine just how much motion they can perceive. The other aspect of this research is to see if more basal members of this family, those closer to the common ancestor, can see at similarly high rates. The interesting turn here would be if they do resolve detail at high rates, but do not incorporate rapid movement in their courtship displays, indicating that this rapid vision allowed for the evolution of high speed display elements. A secondary, though perhaps for all but the academic more important, outcome of this research is the cataloging of documentary quality footage of poorly understood bird species of Central and South America. This may bring attention to biomes that desperately need attention to combat the threat of habitat loss.

Publication Date


Studying Golden-Winged Manakins in Ecuador


Book Location