White-crowned Manakin Dixiphia pipra

Guy M. Kirwan, David Snow, and Andrew J. Spencer
Version: 2.0 — Published April 2, 2020

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

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Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Reviews of vocal differences and repertoire have been published by Spencer (20), Berv et al. (26) and, to a much lesser extent, Boesman (22), and these have informed the sections below. It is important to note that in their study of the evolution of this group, Berv et al. (26) found that vocal behavior differs significantly among groups, with most vocalizations given by males at lek sites being diagnostic of and restricted to a single population or subspecies (see below for more detailed descriptions). The most detailed description of the species’ array of vocalizations within a single population pertains to D. p. cephaleucos in the Atlantic Forest (74). In that population, the most frequently heard is the song/advertisement call, which as in the genus Pipra, serves in male–male territorial defense and to attract females to the male’s court. The advertisement call can be given on average every 16 seconds, and neighboring males frequently answer each other and engage in vigorous bursts of counter-singing at boundaries of their territories. The whistle call is mainly given at collective display sites, when up to six different birds may call at once, during both inter- and intra-specific interactions. It seems to be primarily uttered by female-plumaged birds. Finally, the hover call was noted exclusively during interspecific interactions, and was given by birds in all plumages while hovering. Sick (75, 56) also mentioned a weak eh similar to a vocalization given by the Kinglet Manakin  (Machaeropterus regulus), and Oniki and Willis (76) reported hearing a still-dependent, but fledged young, utter a few call.


Like most manakins, White-crowned’s vocal repertoire (exclusive of the various non-vocal sounds they make) consists of a ‘song’, typically given from a ritual song perch, and at least one call type. However, geographical variation is complex, and at least eight vocal types are known. These likely correspond to separate species, and studies are ongoing to determine the precise status of each.

Central America (D. p. anthracina)

Song. ( ) A single buzzy, high-pitched note from that fast falls slightly and then rises from 2.8 to 7.0 kHz, lasting around 0.7 seconds. In some versions the initial falling portion can be hard to hear. Most similar to the song of D. p. minima from the Chocó of Colombia, but differs in having the initial falling portion of the song slightly higher in pitch, and with an more even rise in frequency.

Whistle call. No available recordings.

Chocó (D. p. minima)

Song. Most similar to the song in Central America, in western Colombia gives a buzzy note rising from 1.6 kHz to 6 kHz, lasting 0.7–0.8 seconds. Distinguished from the song of anthracina by the slightly lower pitch, and a distinct ‘kink’ in the change in pitch part-way through, with a less steep change in the second half of the vocalization. Very few recordings available.

Whistle call. No available recordings.

Central Colombia (D. p. unica, D. p. bolivari)

Song. Very different from the geographically most proximate vocal groups, a thin buzzy rising and then slightly falling whistle between 1.3 kHz and 2.6 kHz, lasting 0.4–0.5 seconds, followed by a higher-pitched tink at c. 2.7 kHz. Overall pattern most similar to the song of occulta, but with a notably different whistling (rather than buzzing) introduction, and lower-pitched terminal tink.

Whistle call. A short, clear whistle that starts out level at 1.8 kHz, before abruptly rising to 3.2 kHz, duration 0.3 seconds, and somewhat reminiscent of the call of a piha (Cotingidae). Very different to any other recorded calls from the species complex; notably lower-pitched than the clear calls of the southern/western Amazonian type, and not buzzy like in all other types for which the call is known.

East Andes (D. p. coracina)

Song. The lowest-pitched of any song of the various vocal groups, an even-pitched buzzy note around 2 kHz that abruptly ends in a rising-falling clearer sound element, lasting c. 0.5 seconds. The whole song sounds vaguely frog-like, and can be quiet and hard to locate. Closer to the calls of occulta than to any other song type, but with the terminal element clearer and longer. This form also seems to display lower to the ground than other forms.

Whistle call. A distinctive, short, burry and nasal, slightly rising note, rather like the final element of the song. Much shorter than calls of other vocal groups, and unique in containing both nasal and buzzy elements. Most often given near the lek, but also by birds foraging or otherwise moving through the forest.

Foothills (D. p. occulta)

Song. ( ) A single low, rough, buzzy note around 2.5 kHz and lasting approximately 0.4 seconds, immediately followed by a much higher tink at c. 4.8 kHz. The time between songs also seems to be shorter in this vocal group, but is subject to much variation. Another variation has the initial buzzy note rising in pitch, and ending closer to the higher terminal note. Most similar to the song of the central Colombia group, but with a much buzzier introductory note and a higher-pitched terminal tink.

Whistle call. ( ) A low, rough, buzzy note at c. 2.3 kHz and lasting c. 0.2 seconds, often given in series. Most similar to the song of coracina, but shorter and without the nasal ending. Very different than other calls of this species in that it is both rough and buzzy, and low-pitched.

Southern/western Amazonia (D. p. discolor, D. p. pygmaea, D. p. comata, D. p. microlopha, D. p. separabilis)

Song. ( ) A long buzzy note descending from 4.6 kHz to 1.8 kHz, lasting 0.7–0.8 seconds. The buzzy quality along with the descent in pitch imparts a very distinctive sound, almost like a toy laser gun, and is unlike any other vocal type. Much lower-pitched than birds north of the Amazon, and notably longer than the Andean and western forms.

Whistle call. ( ) Unlike the calls of most of the other vocal groups, a clear, short, strongly overslurred whistle at c. 3 kHz and lasting around 0.25 seconds. Quite different to the buzzy calls of most other vocal groups, and much more strongly overslurred, rather than rising as in the central Colombia group. Most similar to the calls of cephaleucos, but without the finely modulated quality of that taxon.

Northern Amazon (D. p. pipra)

Song. ( ) The highest pitched of all of the vocal groups, as well as the longest: a finely buzzing note that descends from 6.0 kHz to 4.8 kHz, duration c. 1 second. In quality it can sound more like some small furnariid or tyrannid calls than other White-crowned Manakins.

Whistle call. ( ) A finely modulated, buzzy, overslurred note around 4 kHz and lasting 0.3 seconds. Often given in series. Another variation from Guyana is significantly longer (almost twice the length), and marginally higher pitched, but otherwise similar. Somewhat reminiscent of the calls of some Elaenia species.

Eastern Brazil (D. p. cephaleucos)

Song. ( ) A fairly short, even buzzy note around 3.7 kHz and lasting 0.5 seconds, usually immediately followed by a lower pitched tink and very short buzz around 2.5 kHz. The only vocal group with a final element significantly lower-pitched than the initial note.

Whistle call. Somewhat similar to the calls of the southern/western Amazonian taxon, a single, short, overslurred whistle that is finely but noticeably modulated and buzzy, around 3 kHz and lasting c. 0.25 seconds. Often given in series. Given the larger number of recordings relative to the songs, when compared to other vocal types, this taxon may call more frequently. Somewhat reminiscent of the calls of some species of Elaenia.

Recommended Citation

Kirwan, G. M., D. Snow, and A. J. Spencer (2020). White-crowned Manakin (Dixiphia pipra), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, B. K. Keeney, and T. S. Schulenberg, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.whcman2.02