Meet a Feather Scientist

Feathers that have evolved into musical instruments? This may sound like an outrageous idea, but the male Club-winged Manakins of Central and South America use a highly-modified feather structure to sing a powerful one-note tune. Strong selection on these males to attract females has made them unique in the bird world, but it took many years of scientific investigation to figure out how their singing wings work.

Kim Bostwick Kim Bostwick, Ph.D

Explore with Cornell researcher Kim Bostwick as she solves the puzzle of how Manakins sing with their wings and how they evolved this amazing ability.

  • Kim listening carefully
    A Puzzle
  • Club-winged Manakin with tail raised
  • spectrogram detail
  • array of feathers
  • 3D model of Club-winged Manakin wing
    The Solution
  • Club-winged Manakin sitting on a branch