MANAKIN, from the Dutch word Manneken, applied to certain small birds, a name apparently introduced into English by G. Edwards (Nat. Hist. Birds, i. 21) in or about 1743, since which time it has been accepted generally, and is now used for those which form the family Pipridae. The manakins are peculiar to the Neotropical Region and have many of the habits of the titmouse family (Paridae), living in deep forests, associating in small bands, and keeping continually in motion, but feeding almost wholly on the large soft berries of the different kinds of Melastoma. The Pipridae, however, have no close affinity with the Paridae, but belong to another great division of the order Passeres, the Clamatores group of the Anisomyodae. The manakins are nearly all birds of gay appearance, generally exhibiting rich tints of blue, crimson, scarlet, orange or yellow in combination with chestnut, deep black, black and white, or olive green; and among their most obvious characteristics are their short bill and feeble feet, of which the outer toe is united to the middle toe for a good part of its length. The tail, in most species very short, has in others the middle feathers much elongated, and in one of the outer rectrices are attenuated and produced into threads. They have been divided (Brit. Mus. Cat. Birds, vol. xiv.) into nineteen genera with about seventy species, of which eighteen are included under Pipra itself. P. leucilla, one of the best known, has a wide distribution from the isthmus of Panama to Guiana and the valley of the Amazon; but it is one of the most plainly coloured of the family, being black with a white head. The genus Machaeropterus, consisting of four species, is very remarkable for the extraordinary form of some of the secondary wing-feathers in the males, in which the shaft is thickened and the webs changed in shape, as described and illustrated by P. L. Sclater (Proc. Zool. Society, 1860, p. 90; Ibis, 1862, p. 175) in the case of the beautiful M. deliciosus, and it has been observed that the wing-bones of these birds are also much thickened, no doubt in correlation with this abnormal structure. A like deviation from the ordinary character is found in the allied genus Chiromachaeris, comprehending seven species, and Sclater is of the opinion that it enables them to make the singular noise for which they have long been noted, described by O. Salvin (Ibis, 1860, p. 37) in the case of one of them, M. candaei, as beginning “with a sharp note not unlike the crack of a whip,” which is “followed by a rattling sound not unlike the call of a landrail”; and it is a similar habit that has obtained for another species, M. edwardsi, the name in Cayenne, according to Buffon (Hist. Nat. Oiseaux, iv. 413), of Cassenoisette. (A. N.)
- Though Edwards called the species he figured (ut supra) a titmouse, he properly remarked that there was no genus of European birds to which he could liken it.
- The figures are repeated by Darwin (Descent of Man, &c., ii. 66).