Bananaquit (juv) Abaco, Bahamas 4


I’m not generally into whimsy and such stuff BUT… I can’t get enough of small bananaquits (Coereba flaveola). I’ve featured them before HERE and HERE AGAIN, but then I see another one, take some photos, and awwwwww – look at its little fluffy feathers… and its tiny sharp claws! The two shown below are summer babies. They aren’t really babies, though, are they? Teenagers, more like. Like many Abaco birds – especially the parrots – they are keen on the fruit of the Gumbo Limbo tree Bursera simaruba shown here. They also love flowers, piecing the base with their beaks to get at the nectar. They are quite as happy on a feeder – or indeed sipping sugar water from a hummingbird feeder, living up to their nickname ‘sugar bird’. 

Bananaquit (juv) Abaco, Bahamas 1Bananaquit (juv) Abaco, Bahamas 7“Watching you watching me…”Bananaquit (juv) Abaco, Bahamas 3

This second bird is a bit older, and has developed some smart citrus lemon shoulder flashes. Bananaquits have many regional variations throughout the caribbean and beyond. These birds are, or were, generally lumped in with the tanager species. They have an official classification of ‘uncertain placement’ in the taxonomic scheme for now, while their exact status is debated. Not that anyone watching them worries about that sort of technicality.Bananaquit (juv) Abaco, Bahamas 6Bananaquit (juv) Abaco, Bahamas 5

Here is what a Bahamas bananaquit sounds like, recorded on Andros (Credit: Paul Driver at Xeno-Canto)

A pair of adult bananaquits


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!”