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Bird in the Spotlight: Araripe Manakin

15 April, 2024

By Alexander Trifunovic

An adult male Araripe Manakin (Antilophia bokermanni), known locally as the soldadinho (“little soldier”) and regarded as o dono do agua (“owner of the waters”). Photo by Rick elis.simpson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


The manakins (Pipridae) are a diverse family found only in the Neotropics and are well known for their vibrant colors and dazzling dance moves. The critically endangered Araripe Manakin (Antilophia bokermanni) is a stunner of a bird with the males sporting gleaming white plumage, high-contrast black wings and tail, and an upturned, shield-like red crest. Females are a mossy olive-green with a smaller crest. These birds are endemic to moist, evergreen forests on the northern slope of the Chapada do Araripe (Araripe Plateau) in the state of Ceará in northeastern Brazil. The region’s unique geology and hydrology allows rainwater to slowly percolate from the plateau into underground pools which eventually flow out and allow a lush forest to grow in region of arid scrubland. It is suspected that the Araripe Manakin once ranged across the Cariri Valley at the foot of the plateau but were restricted to a 30 square kilometer area due to widespread clearing of forests for large commercial plantations, farming, and human settlements. 

Chapada do Araripe in northeastern Brazil, the stunning home of the Araripe Manakin found nowhere else in the world. The plateau’s unique geology allows a lush, wet forest to grow in a region of arid scrubland. Photo by Marquel Jacob Pereira, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


Like other manakins, this species is primarily frugivorous, and purple Clidemia biserrata berries make up 80% of their diet, and this plant provide a year-round supply of fruits. The rest of their diet is supplemented by invertebrates, mainly beetles, which may provide a source of carotenoids for the male’s stunning red feathers. The soldadinho gives a warbled “gururu uí-uí” from a song-perch to advertise his presence in the forest and will raise his wings vertically while displaying. As with other manakins, males do not contribute to nesting, and the female is solely responsible for nest building and rearing the young, usually weaving her intricately decorated nest on branches hanging just over a rushing stream. Not much is known about the bird’s movements and behavior, and it was only discovered in 1996. The current population is estimated around 800 individuals known from fewer than 15 locations that remain threatened by agriculture, development, logging, and the degradation of natural springs and streams as the human population around the plateau grows and demands for water increase. Chapada do Araripe is a key area for conservation work and the Araripe Manakinhas become the focus of many NGOs, such as Aquasis, as well as some locals aiding in protecting the bird along with the region’s water supply for both people and wildlife.  

A female Araripe Manakin on a nest. Photo Hesperia2007 (Shirley) from Bangkok, Thailand, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.



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