AppearanceThe bananaquit is a small bird, although there is some degree of size variation across the various subspecies. Length can range from 4 to 5 in. Weight ranges from 5.5 to 19 g.
Most subspecies of the bananaquit have dark grey upperparts, black crown and sides of the head, a prominent white eyestripe, grey throat, white vent, and yellow chest, belly and rump.
The sexes are alike, but juveniles are duller and often have a partially yellow eyebrow and throat.
In the subspecies ''bahamensis'' and ''caboti'' from the Bahamas and Cozumel, respectively, the throat and upper chest are white or very pale grey, while ''ferryi'' from La Tortuga Island has a white forehead. The subspecies ''laurae'', ''lowii'' and ''melanornis'' from small islands off northern Venezuela are overall blackish, while the subspecies ''aterrima'' and ''atrata'' from Grenada and Saint Vincent have two plumage morphs, one "normal" and another blackish. The pink gape is usually very prominent in the subspecies from islands in the Caribbean Sea.
DistributionIt is resident in tropical South America north to southern Mexico and the Caribbean. It is found throughout the West Indies, except Cuba. Birds from the Bahamas are rare visitors to Florida. It is particularly prevalent on Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao and also the most popular species of bird on the islands.
It occurs in a wide range of open to semi-open habitats, including gardens and parks, but it is rare or absent in deserts, dense forests and at altitudes above 2,000 m .
BehaviorThe bananaquit has a slender, curved bill, adapted to taking nectar from flowers. It sometimes pierces flowers from the side, taking the nectar without pollinating the plant. It also feeds on sweet juices by puncturing fruit with its beak, and will eat small insects on occasion. While feeding, the bananaquit must always perch as it cannot hover like a hummingbird.
The bananaquit is known for its ability to adjust remarkably to human environments. It often visits gardens and may become very tame. Its nickname, the sugar bird, comes from its affinity for bowls or bird feeders stocked with granular sugar, a common method of attracting these birds. The bananaquit builds a spherical lined nest with a side entrance hole, laying up to three eggs, which are incubated solely by the female. It may also build its nest in man-made objects, such as lampshades and garden trellises. The birds breed all year regardless of season and build new nests throughout the year.
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