I’ll bet you’ve never read that sentence before, that is unless you read posts to the email list Oregon Birders OnLine, OBOL. Last week I posted this to the list, in case other birders might be interested in trying it.
Bananas are always one of the most popular foods on bird feeders in the tropics where I lead tours. Warblers, tanagers, sparrows, icterids, and of course more tropical things like barbets and aracaris swarm over them. But I’ve never seen them offered in the US, and it’s never occurred to me. But in these stay-at-home pandemic times, we’re all becoming a bit more creative and experimental, aren’t we? My oranges have been pretty much ignored for over a year, and they are supposedly a well-known draw for orioles and tanagers. (I did have a young Black-capped Chickadee that took a liking to my oranges in July and August, but that lasted just a couple weeks, and then it was probably snagged by the family of voracious Cooper’s Hawks that nested nearby.)
At $.79/pound for organic in my local grocery store right now, bananas at this price probably would be scoffed at and ignored in Costa Rica or Bolivia. For that money there, you could probably get a 25 pound bunch or more. I’m cutting up a single banana into quarters and once a week or so putting them out on my four orange feeders. I’ve been doing this since early spring, and until now I have seen only a single Yellow-rumped Warbler take a couple of experimental bites. Then about three weeks ago, I noticed a bunch of bites out of one, and it didn’t take much waiting to see that the culprit was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. It’s now one of his favorite foods. I say “his,” because you can sometimes see the red in the crown, as in the video below.
Then the Orange-crowned Warbler that showed up in my yard on December 3 (a very scare winter bird this far north) began nibbling at the bananas just over a week ago, and it’s now a regular there as well. It mostly feeds from the peanut butter suet cakes, but also gleans for insects.
Now, just a few times this past week, I’ve now seen Townsend’s Warbler nibbling at the banana (it’s the second most common wintering warbler here). Here's a video montage I made of all three species.
I have no doubt that starlings and robins would love banana, but I don’t think they view these wood-and-nail feeders as the sort of place they’d like to perch. Let’s hope it stays that way.