Please Note: The rainforest exhibit will be closed 3 January through 14 January, reopening Saturday, 15 January at 9:30am. This closure allows us much needed time to make repairs and additions to keep this exhibit looking great. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Upon entering the Rainforest Exhibit here at the Academy, one’s senses are immediately perked up by the sights, sounds, and feel of this habitat. The high humidity, dappled sunlight, flowering plants, whimsical butterflies, and chirping birds are all part of the experience. If you’re one of the many lucky ones, you will have an encounter with one of my favorite species: the bananaquit Coereba flaveola.
These brave, boisterous little birds provide some lively entertainment as they make rounds in their territory, searching for food or something interesting to poke at. Bananaquits are tiny….usually around 12 grams. We are lucky to house two pairs in our rainforest. Pink and Blue (named after their color bands) have made the eastern 4/5ths of the rainforest their territory, leaving just a tiny fraction on the west side for Purple and Red. We acquired our bananaquits about a year ago from the San Diego Zoo, where they were hatched. They have adapted extremely well to our exhibit and are one of the most frequently observed birds.
Bananaquits have an extensive range: nearly all Caribbean islands (except Cuba) along with most of Central America and tropical South America. They tend to stay in lower elevations and avoid expansive forest or desert habitat. Bananaquits have adapted to more open, disturbed, or secondary growth habitat, so they do very well around human habitation. In fact, at many of the Caribbean island resorts, tourists often have close encounters with these curious birds.
Due to their wide distribution over the diverse cultures of the Caribbean and mainland Latin America, these birds have many common names. Some of the more colorful ones are Beeny Bird (Jamaica), See-See Bird (Grenada), and Sucrier (Haiti). Another common name is sugar bird, as bananaquits are sugar feens. Their primary diet is nectar, so a sweet tooth they do have. These birds are also fond of fruit and insects. In fact, our bananaquits are an important predator of some of the plant-damaging insects that inhabit this exhibit.
The taxonomy of bananaquits has been debated for some time now; they have many subspecies over their vast range. They typically lay two, sometimes up to four eggs that hatch after a 12-14 day incubation period.
So stop by when the rainforest re-opens and keep an eye open for these lively little birds!