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.
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 birds 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.
Asa Wright, Arima Valley
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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