Bananaquit – Bird of Unknown Lineage
The Bananaquit is an active little bird often seen competing with hummingbirds at the local feeding stations. It is provisionally classified as a tanager but some organizations, such as the American Ornithologists’ Union, categorize it as incertae sedis , which is Latin for “We don’t know what it is.” It is sometimes grouped into its own family, Coerebidae. Further debate is in progress concerning whether it should be divided into three separate species. It is, however, considered by the majority to be a passerine bird (perching bird), although its relationship is debated.
The Bananaquit ranges from southern Mexico to northwest Peru; from there it can be found eastward into southeastern Brazil. In Ecuador it is locally common along forest borders, clearings and gardens of the humid lowlands on both the eastern and western slopes. It is most numerous in the coastal province of Esmeraldas. Commonly inhabiting the foothills below 1,100 m (3,600 ft) it can be discovered in lesser numbers up to 1,800 m (6,000).
This diminutive creature is 10.5 – 11 cm (4 – 4 ½ in) is length. Both sexes are identical with short, decurved bills and short tails. It has a blackish head and upper parts and sports an unmistakable white streak above its eyes. There is a white patch on the lower portion of the wings and a noticeable yellow rump. The throat is gray, transforming to a contrasting yellow chest and underbelly. Eyes are a dark brown and the legs are gray.
The Bananaquit is a high-strung wee bird, flitting nervously among flowers and fruit bearing trees. It feeds on nectar, similar to the hummingbird, but generally approaches a blossom from the side, probing for the sweet nourishment from the base, thus not pollinating the flowerets in contrast to the hummingbird. It will partake of fruit similar to its tanager cousins and can be located in mixed flocks comprised of both nectar and fruit feeders.
The Bananaquit is an adorable and lively bird that can be very entertaining while observing the other avifauna of Ecuador. Its fast paced feeding frenzies will delight the avid birdwatcher and provide an amusing respite from the long walks searching the rainforests for their bounty.
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