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Bananaquit

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Photograph courtesy Richard Shirley

Black head and back with a white patch at the base of the flight feathers, a yellow spot on the leading edge of the wing and a yellow rump. It has a prominent white supercillary streak. The chin and throat are gray while the rest of the underparts are yellow. This bird is non-migratory with the various populations remaining on their respective Caribbean islands. As a result many subspecies have developed in which there are marked differences in plumage coloration. There is variation of the throat colour  from white to black throughout the West Indies e.g. birds in Antigua, St. Vincent and Grenada have black throats while those in the Bahamas have white throats. There is also some geographic variation in the breast colour, with birds in St. Vincent and Grenada having a greenish yellow breast. The species found on Trinidad and Tobago is Coereba flaveola luteola. The bill is black and slightly downward curved. Both sexes are similar but the female has a slightly darker crown, a whitish throat and the rump is olive yellow, the male may be slightly larger and have a more extensive, brighter color on the rump. The adult size is between 10-12 cm.; weight: 9-10 gms. Immature birds are duller in colour.

Widely found throughout Trinidad & Tobago in all habitats, they are lowland birds, very rarely found in high mountain forests. The areas they inhabit however will have some type of plant cover.

It is a nectar feeder obtaining nectar from wide variety of flowers, particularly heliconias and hibiscus. The Bananaquit cannot hover like a hummingbird and so must always perch while feeding and many times hangs upside down from a branch instead of sitting upright. The bird thrusts its head between the flower petals either from above or below, and with its sharp curved beak and protrusible forked tongue it extracts the nectar stored at the base of the flower. When it encounters large flowers where the nectar is beyond the reach of the bird’s bill and tongue it pierces the base of the flower to obtain the nectar. These birds also feed on fruits, insects (small caterpillars, wasps, beetles, lantern flies, and moths) and spiders. These birds can become quite tame around humans if there is a regular supply of sugar or fruits. They are very sociable birds and if there is a regular supply of sugar or abundant flowers they will be seen in large groups. They are bold, acrobatic, and noisy, keeping in constant motion, flitting their wings as they feed.

Bananaquits build a globular nest of grasses, leaves and plant fibers located from 5 to 30 feet above ground, sometimes higher in open exposed locations. The entrance is located facing downward in the lower part of the nest. Several nests may be built, with some used only as sleeping quarters. The nests may be built near a wasp nest to provide protection against predators. Different nests may be used on different nights for roosting, with one to several birds sharing a sleeping nest. Both the male and female build separate nests. Prior to breeding the male spends his time singing around his own nest and also in the area surrounding a female's nest to attract her as a mate. Before a female lays her eggs, the male remains very close (within 2 m) to his mate. He is very protective as they feed and gather materials for a brooding nest (different from her roosting nest). Once the eggs have been laid and incubation has begun the male becomes far less attentive. He goes back to singing in the vicinity of his own nest and courting other females.

Family - Bananaquits

Local Names - Sugarbirds, Sucrier, Banana Bird, Yellow-breast, Paw-paw Bird, Marley Quit, Bessie Coban, Honey-sucker, Yellow See-see

Latin Name - Coereba flaveola

Range - Occurs throughout the Caribbean islands, except Cuba. It also occurs on the mainland from Mexico, south to Peru, Paraguay, northeastern Argentina, and southern Brazil.

 

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Asa Wright, Arima Valley

 

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References

Hayden, E. 2002. "Coereba flaveola" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Coereba_flaveola.html.

Alfred 0. Gross, 1958. Life History Of The Bananaquit Of Tobago Island, The Wilson Bulletin Vol. 70, No. 3

Puerto Rico's Birds in Photographs. 2nd edition, Mark Oberle. 2003, Editorial Humanitas, Seattle Washington

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds of the World, David Alderton. 2004 Lorenz Books, London

Birds of Venezuela. Steven L. Hilty. 2003, Christopher Helm, London

A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd edition, Richard ffrench. 1992, Helm, London

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All photographs (unless otherwise stated) are the property of Brian Ramsey. No portion of the material on this site, including the photographs, may be reproduced without the express written consent of Outdoor Business Group Limited and Brian Ramsey. The permission of the other owners of the photographs must also be obtained for use.   

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Last modified: February 16, 2008