The Bee Hummingbird – The World’s Smallest Bird
The smallest bird in the world is none other than the bee hummingbird. These beautiful miniature birds are a favorite among birdwatchers in tropical areas, and play an important role in pollination for many tropical plants.
For a brief overview of the smallest bird currently living today, read further. Information provided includes a physical description of the bird, habitat information, and an outline of the bee hummingbird’s behaviors and characteristics.
Aside from being the world’s smallest bird, the bee hummingbird is also one of the most colorful and pleasing to the eye. The males include a striking array of colors, featuring a fire red throat, green pileum, blue feathers on its upper body, and a serene grayish white on its underside. The feathers of both male and female bee hummingbirds also boast an iridescent sheen to the plumes.
The female of this species are equally as beautiful, unlike most other species of bird. They tend to be a bluish green shade on their upper parts with a white underbelly. They also have bright white spots on the very tips of their tail feathers.
Being the smallest bird in the world, bee hummingbirds are very aptly named. On average they grow no larger than the size of a large bee. This means that it only gets to 5 cm tall while standing upright, and weighs a miniscule 1.8 grams.
Habitat and Population
A native to Cuba and outlying island regions, the bee hummingbird thrives in tropical weather and climes. Though a good amount of birds in this area are indeed endangered, the bee hummingbird is not. However, its population is beginning to recede, and this will eventually prove to be a huge problem for the ecosystem, as many species of Cuban flowers depend on these birds for their pollination.
The nests that these birds reside in are tiny as well. The female bee hummingbird is responsible for the nest building, and will gather up bits of bark, cobwebs, and lichen to build it with. The nest itself is small and cup-shaped, but only gets to be at the most an inch in diameter. When the outer portion is completed, the nest gets lined on the inside with delicate plant fibers. Because the nests are so small, they can be located in some unlikely and unexpected areas, not just trees and bushes. Some locals have spotted nests being built right on top of unused clothes pins.
The primary diet of the bee hummingbird is flower nectar, although they will occasionally ingest a small insect or spider if one happens to be inside of the flower. Nectar is consumed by way of the bird’s incredibly slim and pointed bill. Once the bill has probed into a flower, the bird’s tongue then acts as a straw and allows the bird to suck the nectar up. This is when pollination happens, because pollen gets caught on the bird’s bill and head and is transferred from flower to flower as the bird feeds. For an idea of how important a role the bird plays in pollination, you must take into consideration that an average day for a bee hummingbird may involve visiting over 1,500 different flowers.
Like all hummingbirds, bee hummingbirds are incredibly swift and strong flyers. With an ability to perform over 80 wing beats per second, these birds can also fly backwards and maintain a hovering pattern like a helicopter, allowing them to probe flowers at their leisure.
When it comes time for the female to lay eggs, she does so on her own, laying only two per batch, each being no larger than a small pea. She is responsible for the incubation period, requiring no help from the male. She is also the sole caregiver to the baby birds once they are hatched.