The brave tropical bananaquit is aptly named, because it is easy to find these birds in banana trees as they forage for sweet foods. They can even become so brazen that they will fly into open homes to steal sugar, earning the nickname "sugar bird."
Bananaquit, Sugar Bird
- Bill: Black, sharply pointed, decurved
- Size: 4.5 inches long with 7-8-inch wingspan, short tail
- Colors: Yellow, white, red, black, buff, gray, pink
- Markings: Sexes are similar a black head with a white brow, white or gray chin and throat and red or pink flesh at the corner of the bill. The breast and upper abdomen is yellow while the lower abdomen and undertail coverts are buff or white. The back is black, and the black wings show a small white patch on the edge. The yellow rump contrasts with a dark tail, and the legs and feet are black.
Nectar, insects, fruit
Habitat and Migration:
The bananaquit is a tropical bird easily found in forests and gardens where nectar-producing flowers and fruit are abundant. Their year-round range includes most of the Caribbean islands though they are rare in Cuba, and they are also found in Central America and South America as far south as northern Argentina. In the United States, these birds are rare visitors or vagrants to southern Florida.
With such a widespread range, these birds have developed many different calls and vocalizations depending on geography. Sharp buzzes, trills and very high, thin notes are common, and their calls may be mistaken for insects.
The bananaquit is an acrobatic forager and will creep sideways or cling upside down to flowers and fruits to get to the sweetest foods. They are typically solitary or may be found in pairs during the breeding season.
These are monogamous birds and the female will incubate a brood of 2-4 eggs for 12-14 days. After hatching, both parents feed the altricial young for 15-17 days. Because these birds stay in tropical areas year-round, a mated pair may raise 3-4 broods per year.
Bananaquits will readily come to backyards, parks and gardens with flowering plants and nectar feeders. Birders hoping to attract them should avoid insecticides that would eliminate a critical source of dietary protein, and if bananaquits nest nearby those nests should be left up for roosting after the young birds have fledged. Bananaquits will also occasionally use birdhouses.
- Western Spindalis (Spindalis zena)
Photo – Bananaquit © Craig Nash