Birds in the garden (BIG) 4: Bananaquit

This enchanting and common bird on the island is actually and endemic subspecies for the sister islands Curacao and Aruba. The island of Bonaire has its own endemic subspecies.

Banaquit subspecies as seen on Curacao.

ENGLISH: Bananaquit
DUTCH: Suikerdiefje
PAPIAMENTO: Barika Hel
SCIENTIFIC: 𝘊𝘰𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘣𝘢 𝘧𝘭𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘰𝘭𝘢 𝘶𝘳𝘰𝘱𝘺𝘨𝘪𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘴

These birds are very common on Curaçao, and are easily identified by the yellow belly, black jacket and shrill chirping. The white stripe above the eye marks the animal and with it, it seems to be looking angry permanently. Taking a picture of a not ‘angry looking’ Barika hel (as the animal is called in Papiamento), is almost impossible.

The bird species has learned a wide variety of tricks for an easier life on the island. One of the tricks concerns the construction of the nest. The bird finds it a lot easier to build a nest in a lamp or in a plant near people and their structures. It’s a lot safer than building a nest in the mondi, and the construction materials are easy to obtain, in the form of pieces of mop, fluff and sometimes even paper. Building the nest is a job of the male, who makes every effort to please his female. But there only has to be something wrong with nest, in regards to the location or the interior, and the female takes the nest completely down, on which the male has to start all over again.

Incidentally, the Barika Hel is mainly an insect eater and sweets are secondary in their daily menu. This does not mean that these animals don’t have a sweet tooth, and that is why they are so easily attracted to the garden with white sugar, which many people put out in large numbers. This is however not a healthy practice for these birds and in some areas this may lead to overfeeding with the sugar, causing obesity, diabetes-like symptoms and even growth defects. We always advise, if feeding sugar, not to do this more often than once or twice every 2 weeks. It is even better to stop feeding it and only feed overripe fruits like bananas, oranges, mango and the like. Not only do they feed on the more nutritional fruit juices, the fruits also attract fruit flies, which is part of their healthy diet.


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