The bananaquit is an active, energetic bird, often seen clinging to flowers which it probes or pierces for nectar with its sharp, curved beak, extracting the nectar using a specially adapted, brush-like tongue. It will also pierce fruits for their juices (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) and sometimes supplements the diet with small insects and spiders, which it gleans from vegetation (2) (7). This endearing bird can even become quite tame, taking sugar from bowls in hotels or gardens (5), leading to its nickname of ‘sugar bird’. The bananaquit is believed to act as a pollinator for some of the flowers it visits (7) (10).
Although most commonly seen alone or in pairs, the bananaquit will sometimes join mixed flocks of tanagers and warblers (2) (7). At all times of year, both the male and female build globular nests, similar to those used for breeding, which are used instead by individual birds as roosting sites (2) (4) (5) (7). The breeding nest itself is a compact globe with a side or downward-facing entrance, built from grass and vegetation and lined with fine fibres or feathers (2) (4) (5), and is usually placed at the end of a branch in a tree, shrub or vine tangle (2) (4). The distinctive shape of its nest sets the bananaquit apart from its nearest relatives, the honeycreepers, tanagers and warblers (3) (6).
The bananaquit may breed year-round in some areas (4) (7), with two or three broods produced each year (7), or breeding may coincide with the wet season (11). Two to four eggs are laid (2) (4) (5), and are incubated solely by the female, hatching after 12 to 13 days (2). The young leave the nest at two to three weeks old (2), and individuals have been recorded living to at least seven years in the wild (12).