I'm too sexy for these feathers. So says the male club-winged manakin. The clumsy but sweet singing resident of the Andes mountains is a textbook example of runaway sexual selection. That means the small bird species has rapidly evolved a certain ornamental trait that attracts the opposite sex but harms its chances of survival. In the case of the club-winged manakin, it has "selected" an elaborate mating song over the ability to fly well. The song is produced by their sophisticated "spoon-and-washboard" wings. The wings have extra wide bones, with special ligaments, that beat up to 100 times per second. Their "spoon" feathers rub over ridged "washboard" feathers to produce 14 sounds per oscillation, or 1400 sounds per minute. While this makes for an amazing song—one that drives the females crazy—it requires their wing bones to be malformed and solid instead of hollow. Which unfortunately means they can barely fly.
As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.