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Bananaquit – Bird of Unknown Lineage

Updated on January 16, 2011
Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)
Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) | Source


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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    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thanks for the comment Anjili. I can get enough of observing the bird. Not just their color but how they interact with their environment. Fantastic creatures.

    • Anjili profile image

      Anjili 6 years ago from planet earth, a humanoid

      I'm always mesmerized by these little creatures. So beautiful, tiny and delicate. They love paying me a visit when least expected and even breed on my hedge. I just love their sight and company more so when they come for a drink or bath in my home. Ohhh, such a welcome intrusion into our lives. They add a lot to our lives. Makes us love our creator more for being so considerate. Thanks for the share Colibriphoto

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      I have a baby living in my back yard right now. It even knocks on my door when it wants to get fed. I think it will be gone in about another week. Thanks Bluebird

    • bluebird profile image

      bluebird 6 years ago

      I've had several pet birds, in the spring there would always be at least one poor little baby that had fallen out of the nest in our yard and I felt it my duty to become its mother. It was so much fun feeding them and watching them grow and change...and fly away, boo hoo!

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      "incertae sedis" means uncertain placement. I guess it is sort of like the platypus. What do you do with such a strange creature? Thanks for the comments Pamela.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 6 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      That's funny that they class it as 'we don't know what it is' in Latin. Another beautiful bird. Thanks for sharing.

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thanks PA. There is so much to see and so little time.

    • Pixel-Alchemist profile image

      Pixel-Alchemist 7 years ago from Waitakere Auckland : New Zealand


      A great hub. Always love learning about the creatures of the world I can only view via web or TV. Thanks for sharing