Birds of Puerto Rico: Bananaquits

Bananaquits (Coereba flaveola) are small birds found in a variety of habitats in Puerto Rico, including parks, suburban gardens and forested areas. They have adapted to living around humans and can become quite tame. As they are very fond of sweetness, they are easily lured to backyard garden feeders by offerings of granular sugar and sugar water where they can be observed at leisure. Although they are often compared to hummingbirds, these little black and yellow passerines are not able to hover and must perch while feeding. When obtaining their nourishment the natural way, they are known to poke holes in the sides of nectar-rich flowers to extract the nectar. In addition to nectar, bananaquits enjoy a variety of fruits, particularly ripe banana, and also eat small insects.

Measuring between 10 and 13 cm, the bananaquit can weigh up to 19 grams. Both males and females have dark grey upperparts and black crowns and cheeks. They have a very prominent white eyestripe, with a bright yellow chest, belly and rump. Their slender, curved bills are well adapted to extracting nectar from flowers, thereby pollinating the plant, but bananaquits often pierce flowers from the side for their nectar, not performing the reciprocal service of pollination.

When breeding, bananaquits build a spherical-shaped nest from grasses and plant fibers, with the entrance facing downward. They line their nests with feathers, paper, thread, spider’s webs, leaves and a variety of other materials. In addition to building their nests in trees, bananaquits are quite comfortable with building their nests in made-made structures such as garden trellises. They breed all year around and often build new nests, abandoning the old for no apparent reason. Following a brief courtship which includes a ritual of bowing, bobbing up and down, and turning their heads from side to side, mating takes place. The female lays up to three eggs at a time and incubates them without assistance from the male. Having been quite attentive up until the female lays her eggs, the male appears to lose interest and goes off to court another female.

So, when exploring the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, be sure to look out for the pretty little black and yellow bananaquits.