Meet the World’s Smallest Bird: Surprising Facts About the Bee Hummingbird

The Bee Hummingbird, or Mellisuga helenae, is the smallest bird in the world. You can find this tiny wonder only in Cuba. It’s so small that it’s often mistaken for a bumblebee.

Its size isn’t the only impressive thing. The male Bee Hummingbird sports dazzling colors with iridescent blue and green feathers. Females are less colorful, primarily green with white underparts.

These birds are not only small but also incredibly quick. Their wings beat up to 80 times per second, sounding like those of a bumble bee, which is where they get their name! This rapid wing flapping allows them to hover in place as they feed on nectar.

Biology and Behavior of the Bee Hummingbird

You will learn about the tiny Bee Hummingbird’s physical traits, habitats, diet, reproduction, and behaviors. These birds have unique adaptations and fascinating lifestyles.

Anatomy and Physical Features of the Bee Hummingbird

female vs male bee hummingbird

The Bee Hummingbird is the smallest bird, measuring about 2.25 inches long and weighing less than 2 grams. Males exhibit iridescent plumage with bright colors, primarily green and blue, while females are slightly duller. They have a slender bill, short wings, and distinctive tail feathers that aid in their agile flight.

If you love hummingbirds…

check out our other article on 12 hummingbird facts!

Habitat and Distribution of the Bee Hummingbird

bee hummingbird sitting with a dense bush

Bee Hummingbirds are native to Cuba and Isla de la Juventud. They prefer tropical forests, gardens, and forest edges. You’ll see these birds in areas with rich plant life, which provides the nectar they rely on for food. Habitat loss threatens their population, making protected areas vital for their survival.

Diet and Feeding Habits of the Bee Hummingbird

Bee Hummingbirds feed mainly on nectar from flowers such as Solandra grandiflora. They are also important pollinators. These birds have a high metabolism, requiring frequent feeding. Insects and spiders are consumed occasionally for protein. Their long bill and specialized tongue help them extract nectar efficiently.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

During the breeding season, male Bee Hummingbirds perform courtship displays. Males have various acoustic traits, including sounds from their tail feathers that attract females. For more information, see this paper on: Complex coevolution of wing, tail, and vocal sounds of courting male bee hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds are polygamous, and the males don’t participate in nesting. Females build small cup-shaped nests and lay one to two eggs. The incubation period lasts about 21 days. Chicks fledge in about 18-22 days, relying on their mother’s care.

Behavioral Characteristics

Bee Hummingbirds exhibit territorial behavior, especially males, during breeding. They are known for their rapid flight and ability to hover. These birds communicate with twittering calls and often sing near their feeding areas. Their high energy levels require efficient feeding strategies and constant movement.

Diet of the Bee Hummingbird

While primarily feeding on nectar, bee hummingbirds occasionally eat insects and spiders. In a typical day, they can consume up to half their body weight in food.

Flowers the Bee Hummingbird Feeds On:

They can visit thousands of flowers a day to find the right ones!

  1. Hamelia patens (Rubiaceae), also known as Firebush, produces bright red-orange tubular flowers that are highly attractive to hummingbirds due to their rich nectar content.
  2. Chrysobalanus icaco (Chrysobalanaceae)Commonly known as the Cocoplum, this shrub bears small, white flowers that provide a valuable nectar source for the bee hummingbird.
  3. Pavonia paludicola (Malvaceae): This marshmallow-like plant has delicate pink flowers hummingbirds frequent for their nectar.
  4. Forsteronia corymbosa (Apocynaceae)This climbing plant produces clusters of yellow flowers, offering a plentiful supply of nectar for the bee hummingbird.
  5. Lysiloma latisiliquum (Mimosaceae), also known as Wild Tamarind, is a tree with fluffy, white to pink flowers that attract hummingbirds with their abundant nectar.
  6. Turnera ulmifolia (Passifloraceae), also called Yellow Alder, produces bright yellow flowers that are a favorite of many nectar-feeding birds, including the bee hummingbird.
  7. Antigonon leptopus (Polygonaceae)Commonly known as Coral Vine, this climbing plant features vibrant pink flowers rich in nectar and is extremely attractive to hummingbirds.
  8. Tournefortia hirsutissima (Boraginaceae)This plant has small, white, or blue flowers that provide nectar for various hummingbird species, including the bee hummingbird.


bee hummingbird smallest bird

Bee Hummingbirds have a fast heart rate (over 1,000 beats per minute) and high metabolism, allowing them to sustain their energetic lifestyle. They enter a state called torpor to conserve energy during cool nights, lowering their metabolic rate. This unique adaptation helps them survive in fluctuating temperatures and maintain their active habits.

Threats and Conservation

bee hummingbird male

The Bee Hummingbird faces multiple threats, particularly habitat loss and climate change. Conservation efforts aim to protect these tiny birds’ environments and help their populations thrive.

Environmental Threats

The Bee Hummingbird’s primary threat is habitat loss. Deforestation in tropical forests, particularly in Cuba, where the species is mainly found, destroys their homes. Logging and agriculture cause much of this deforestation.

Climate change is another massive threat. Rising temperatures can affect flowering plants that these hummingbirds rely on for nectar, their primary food source. Changes in weather patterns can also disrupt their breeding and migration.

Predators like cats, snakes, and larger birds also pose a danger. With less habitat, they are more exposed.

Conservation Efforts

Several conservation efforts are in place to protect the bee hummingbird. Habitat preservation is crucial. Protected areas in Cuba help save their tropical forest homes. These efforts focus on curbing deforestation and managing agriculture responsibly.

Pollinator-friendly gardens can help provide food sources. Gardens planted with native flowers give hummingbirds places to feed, especially in more developed areas.

Raising awareness is also vital. Educating people about the importance of these birds and their role as pollinators can make a big difference. International cooperation, especially in regions like Hispaniola, helps ensure these efforts are widespread and practical.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bee Hummingbirds

Bee Hummingbirds are the smallest bird species in the world, with unique traits and specific habitats. Their distinguishing features and behaviors set them apart from other hummingbird species.

How can Bee Hummingbird eggs be characterized by size?

Bee Hummingbird eggs are incredibly tiny—the world’s most miniature bird eggs! They are about the size of a coffee bean, measuring around 1 cm in length.

What distinguishes Bee Hummingbirds from other hummingbird species?

Bee Hummingbirds are much smaller than other species. They weigh less than 2 grams and have a compact body structure.

Can you describe the size of the Bee Hummingbird in centimeters?

The Bee Hummingbird measures about 5 to 6 cm long, from beak to tail.

What are some unique characteristics of Bee Hummingbirds?

These hummingbirds have iridescent feathers. Males are known for their bright, colorful plumage. Their quick movements and ability to hover are also notable.

What kind of sounds do Bee Hummingbirds make?

Bee Hummingbirds produce high-pitched, rapid chirps. Their wings make a buzzing sound due to the fast flapping.

In which habitats are Bee Hummingbirds typically found?

You typically find Bee Hummingbirds in Cuba and the Isla de la Juventud. They live in forests, gardens, and swamps. They prefer areas with abundant flowers.