Tuesday 21 May
Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)
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Bananaquit fact file
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The colourful bananaquit is a small and distinctive bird with black to greyish upperparts, bright yellow underparts, a conspicuous, long white eyestripe, and a slender, pointed, down-curved beak. The beak is black with a reddish spot at the base, while the throat may be black, white or grey, and there is sometimes a white spot on the wing (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7). The tail is short and is dark in colour, and the legs are also dark (2) (4) (6). The bananaquit is highly variable in appearance across its range, and an impressive 41 subspecies are currently recognised (2) (8), which differ in bill length, throat colour, the extent of yellow on the underparts, the shade of the upperparts and the presence or absence of a white wing spot. In some areas, entirely sooty or blackish forms occur (2) (3). The female bananaquit may be paler in colour than the male (7), while juveniles are paler and duller, and have a more yellowish eyestripe (2) (4).
Although in the past the bananaquit has been varyingly classified along with honeycreepers, tanagers and warblers, it is now considered to be the sole member of its own family, the Coerebidae (3) (4) (6). The bananaquit’s song is described as a high-pitched series of thin, rapid, unmusical notes, and shows much geographical variation, while the call is a short, high-pitched tsip or seet (2) (4) (5) (6).
- Also known as
- sugar bird. Top
Neotropical Birds Online:
Anguilla National Trust:
UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum:
Bermuda Audubon Society:
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- An animal that in the act of visiting a plant’s flowers transfers pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
- Secondary growth
- Vegetation that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or clearance.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
Contreras-González, A.M., Rodríguez-Flores, C., Soberanes-González, C. and Arizmendi, M.C. (2010) Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola). In: Schulenberg, T.S. (Ed.) Neotropical Birds Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
- Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (1989) The Birds of South America: The Oscine Passerines. Volume I.University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
- Latta, S., Rimmer, C., Keith, A., Wiley, J., Raffaele, H., McFarland, K. and Fernandez, E. (2006) Birds of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
- Hilty, S.L. and Brown, W.L. (1986) A Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
- Jones, H.L. (2003) Birds of Belize. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
- Henderson, C.L. (2002) Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (September, 2010)
BirdLife International (September, 2010)
- Sazima, M. and Sazima, I. (1999) The perching bird Coereba flaveola as a co-pollinator of bromeliad flowers in southeastern Brazil. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 77(1): 47-51.
- Wunderle Jr, J.M. (1982) The timing of the breeding season in the bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) on the island of Grenada, W.I. Biotropica, 14(2): 124-131.
- Boal, C.W., Sibley, F.C., Estabrook, T.S. and Lazell, J. (2006) Insular and migrant species, longevity records, and new species records on Guana Island, British Virgin Islands. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 118(2): 218-224.
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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).Top
The bananaquit is widely distributed throughout Central and South America, from southeast Mexico to northeast Argentina, and across the Caribbean (2) (4) (5) (6) (9). It is also occasionally recorded in Florida, USA (5).Top
This species is found in a range of habitats, including scrub, lowland tropical forest, woodland, plantations and even in areas of secondary growth. It uses all levels of the forest, and is also common in parks, gardens, hedges and suburban areas (2) (3) (4) (5) (7).Top
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
The bananaquit is a widespread and common species, and is not currently considered at risk of extinction (9). This species is not known to face any major threats at present.Top
There are currently no known specific conservation measures aimed at this attractive small bird, although it may benefit from further research into its ecology, reproduction and feeding habits (2).Top
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For more information on the bananaquit and its conservation see:
To find out more about conservation on Anguilla and other Caribbean islands, see:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
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