This manakin is a fairly common bird of dry and moist deciduous forests, but not rainforest. The female builds a cup nest in a tree; two brown-mottled cream eggs are laid, and incubated entirely by the female for about 20 days.
Like other manakins, the lance-tailed manakin is a compact, brightly coloured forest bird, typically 13.5 cm long and weighing 17.5 g. Both sexes have the two central tail feathers elongated to form a spike. The male is mainly black, with a red crown patch, bright sky-blue back, and bright orange legs.
The female has olive-green upperparts, and somewhat paler olive underparts. Young males are olive, but show a red cap and the start of a blue back as they mature.
This species is similar to blue-backed manakin, Chiroxiphia pareola, which breeds further south and east, but the latter lacks the spiky tail, and the male has a somewhat darker blue back.
The male lance-tailed manakin has an interesting breeding display, unusual in that it is cooperative rather than competitive. Two males perch next to each other on a bare stick and jump up and down alternately, sometimes giving short flights. Groups of birds may perform together, with a different stick for each pair of displaying males.
Lance-tailed manakin has a number of calls, including a Toe-LEE-do, a curry-ho, and a frog-like buzzing croak given by displaying males.
- Birds of Venezuela by Hilty, ISBN 0-7136-6418-5