Meet the official bird of the US Virgin Islands! The yellow crest or bananaquit is nicknamed the sugar bird, which comes from its affinity for granular sugar or sugar water. This small, active nectarivore is found in warmer parts of the Americas and is known for its ability to adjust remarkably to human environments. It often visits gardens and may become very tame. Their high reproductive potential and exceptional dispersal ability make these birds superb island colonists. They readily cross bodies of water and even periodically appear in southern Florida.
Most subspecies of the Bananaquit have dark grey (almost black) upperparts, black crown and sides of the head, a prominent white eyestripe, grey throat, white vent, and yellow chest, belly and rump. Both sexes look alike, but juveniles are duller and often have a partially yellow eyebrow and throat.
The birds breed all year regardless of season and build new nests throughout the year. Breeding peaks from March to June. As with many tropical bird species, their breeding is directly related to the rainy seasons.
The Bananaquit builds a spherical, globular lined nest of grasses, leaves and plant fibers located from 5 to 30 feet off the ground. Bananaquits may also build nests in man-made objects, such as lampshades and garden trellises. The nests may even be built near a wasp nest to provide protection against predators. Some of the nests may be used only as sleeping quarters. Different nests may be used on different nights for roosting, with one to several birds sharing a sleeping nest. Nests always have a side entrance hole, with females laying up to four eggs that hatch in about 12 to 13 days. Young bananquits leave the nest in 15 to 18 days.
The 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 Banaquit must always perch as it cannot hover like a hummingbird.
The Bananaquit, as do most species of birds, has a special preen gland (uropygial gland) on their back at the base of the tail. The gland produces a special mixture of waxes and oils that the bird uses to coat its feathers. This coating keeps the feathers flexible, resilient, and water resistant, and provides some protection against parasites and bacteria.