Honey Creepers

Honey Creepers

Honey Creepers

The 27 species of honeycreepers, dacites, flower-piercers, and allies, here included with the tanagers, are often classified with the bananaquit (Cerebra flagella) in a separate family, the Coerebidae. With the exceptions of the Red-legged honeycreeper in Cuba and theorangequit of Jamaica, all are confined to the tropical American mainland and closely adjacent islands. Mostly under 14cm (5.5in) long, they wear varied plumage. Most colorful are the lowland honeycreepers, whose males are clad in blue, turquoise, purple, green, and yellow.

Their bills are long and slightly down-curved in the four species of Cyanerpes, intermediate in the Green honeycreeper, and shorthand sharp in the nine species of Dances. More frequently than tanagers with thicker bills, these birds probe flowers for nectar. They also eat much fruit, catch insects in the air, or pluck them from foliage: they come readily to feeders where the fruit is displayed. They are almost or quite sonless.

The species of the less colorful but more tuneful flower-piercers of the genus Diglossa, attired largely in blue, cinnamon, olive, and black, prefer cooler regions where flowers abound, from the upper levels of the tropical zone to the chilly prams. Their queer, uptilted bills are efficient instruments for extracting nectar from tubular flowers. The tip of the upper mandible hooks over the tube and holds it while the sharp lower mandible pierces the corolla, and the two tubes of the tongue suck out the sweet liquid.

Thus, they take nectar from the flower without pollinating it. Small flying insects balance their diet. They lay two eggs in thick-walled open cups at the same time as their neighbors the hummingbirds do, at a season when few other birds are breeding. Also like hummingbirds, whose diet closely resembles theirs, they feed their nestlings by regurgitation instead of directly from the bill, like other honeycreepers.

See more: American Blackbirds

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