BANANAQUITS Coereba flaveola

These small birds are a favourite of mine. They flicker around, cheeping cheerfully, yet are often quite hard to see in the coppice even if you think you are looking exactly where the sound is coming from.

Bananaquits are passerines, with an uncertain species designation. Over the years they have been officially reclassified three times. Some include them loosely with tanagers; others put them in their own family group; others argue that there are 3 distinct species. Basically, there is no universal consensus. There is some satisfaction, in a vastly over-classified world, in one small bird resisting man’s pigeon-holing (so to speak). It’s a tiny taxonomic enigma.

Among the islands of the West Indies there are several subspecies of bananaquit, with marked variations of appearance and size too tedious to relate. The best news is that “…the Bahamas Bananaquit with a whitish throat and upper chest may be a separate species…”.

The Bananaquit’s slender, curved bill is designed for taking nectar from flowers. It can pierce flowers from the side to reach the nectar, or use its bill to puncture fruit. It also eats small insects. The birds are tame, and love feeders, especially hummingbird feeders filled with sugar-water – hence their nickname “sugar bird”. They breed all year round. This is the characteristic chirrup of the Bahamas Bananaquit (credit: Xeno-Canto)

This small juvenile was happily feeding by itself near the Delphi Club, Abaco. Its mother then flew onto a nearby branch, and I’m afraid to say that the child indulged in a shameful charade of “Hungry! Feed Me! Now!”


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