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What is a Bananaquit?

By R. Britton
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A bananaquit, or Coereba flaveola, is a very small bird measuring up to 5 inches (12 cm) long. It is native to tropical regions across the world, including the Caribbean and Central and South America. This species can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including tropical forests, open meadowland, agricultural land and desert and semi-arid areas. It is a common garden visitor within its native range, often congregating in large numbers if there is a ready supply of food available.

A member of the honeycreeper family, the bananaquit feeds primarily on insects and nectar. These birds are easily tamed if offered favorite foods, and many people offer bowls of granulated sugar or feeders filled with sugared water. Although it has similar feeding habits as the hummingbirds, the bananaquit has to perch when feeding, because it lacks the ability to hover. Another difference is the way in which the bananaquit reaches the nectar. This species does not pollinate the flowers as it feeds, unlike the hummingbird, but tears a hole in the side of the flower to reach the nectar.

With such a wide geographic range, there are localized differences in the color of plumage, and even in behavior patterns. Generally, males do not participate in incubating the eggs or raising the young, but males in some localized populations have been observed sharing these tasks equally with the females. The eggs of the bananaquit take up to two weeks to hatch, and the young are independent in only three weeks.

The bananaquit readily builds nests almost anywhere, including in garden where there is a lot of human activity. This species builds multiple nests, most used for sleeping or roosting. A bunch, or flock, of bananaquits will swap nests with one another until breeding time, when the birds choose a single nest and become protective of their chosen site.

This species is able to raise several batches of young each year. This is partly because of their tropical habitat, but also because the young become independent so quickly. Adapting easily to any changes to their habitat, the bananaquit continues to flourish, and will even cross large bodies of water to colonize a new area, if necessary. The bananaquit breeds easily, and the juveniles have a low mortality rate, meaning that the numbers of this species are large; as of 2010, they are not considered endangered or under threat.

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