The bee hummingbird, zunzuncito or Helena hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) is a hummingbird species only native to the island of Cuba in the Caribbean. They are found throughout dense woodland and swampland habitats, as well as gardens teeming with their favorite nectar-producing flora.
Bee hummingbirds are the world’s smallest bird species. As it happens, they are not much smaller than a bumblebee and weigh less than a dime. The females are slightly larger than males, averaging about 2.4 inches, whereas males only grow to about 2.2 inches in length.
Though these birds are tiny, they are expert flyers, not at all hindered by their small mass and short wingspan.
On average, their wings beat 80 times per second but can increase to 200 beats per second during courtship. Their quickness allows the bee hummingbird to visit more than 1500 plants a day, which is necessary to keep up their rushing metabolism.
We will discuss this hummingbird's size and why it is beneficial in more detail below. Read on to discover more!
Bee Hummingbird with size comparison to a human hand
An adult bee hummingbird’s wingspan generally measures 1.3 to 1.5 inches. Despite being slightly smaller, male bee hummingbirds have the same wingspan as females.
Due to their slightly larger size, the female bee hummingbird weighs more than the male. Females average 2.65 g, while males rarely weigh more than 1.95 g.
Female bee hummingbirds reach a height of about 2.4 inches. Males are a couple of inches shorter, only reaching 2.2 inches.
Close up of a Bee hummingbird in flight
Bee hummingbirds are genuinely tiny. For comparison, they are only about the size of a human thumb, which is why they are often mistaken for actual bees. Their small wings beat so quickly that this hummingbird even sounds like a buzzing bumblebee in flight.
It is hard to imagine that a bird could be so small, let alone that it could be beneficial to the species. Wouldn’t their size make them more vulnerable to predation and severe weather? The short answer is - not necessarily.
The bee hummingbird has evolved to this size for a reason - being small makes it easier for the birds to maintain their high metabolisms. It also enables the species to adeptly collect nectar from its favorite flora, just like a bee.
These hummingbirds do have to compete with certain insects for their food, which includes nectar as well as mosquitos, spiders, and other insects, but they are highly equipped to do so.
They may be tiny, but they are also fierce. Bee hummingbirds defend their food sources by intimidating competitors with their expert flying skills and daring aerial displays.
Bee hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world
All of this is not to say the bee hummingbird is never vulnerable. Larger birds and insects, amphibians, and fish are natural predators of this species, but they are no more impacted by predation than any other bird.
The bee hummingbird’s size is also a result of its quick working metabolism. These birds are built for flying, and in order to keep up their strength and energy throughout the day, they must eat their body weight in nectar and insects.
If their bodies were any larger, it would be difficult and much less efficient for this species to fuel its racing metabolism.
Bee hummingbirds are the smallest bird in the world, with only one relative comparable in size - the Vervain hummingbird, native to Jamaica and Hispaniola.
These species are virtually the same size, the exception is that the male bee hummingbird is slightly smaller than either the male or female vervain.
The best way to compare the bee hummingbird’s size to that of another bird species is to look at a more familiar backyard bird, such as the Rufous hummingbird.
The tiny bee hummer is only half the size of the Rufous, which already seems incredibly small for how resilient and tough they are.
Close up of a Bee hummingbird
Bee hummingbird eggs measure 12.5 x 8.5 mm, making them the smallest eggs in the world. For comparison, one egg is about the size of a coffee bean.
The bee hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world. Female bee hummingbirds reach a height of about 2.4 inches. Males are a couple of inches shorter, only reaching 2.2 inches.
Bee hummingbirds are the smallest hummingbird in the world, with only one relative comparable in size - the Vervain hummingbird, native to Jamaica and Hispaniola. These species are virtually the same size, the exception is that the male bee hummingbird is slightly smaller than either the male or female vervain.
Bee hummingbird captured in Cuba
Bee hummingbirds are expert flyers. In fact, flying is this bird's specialty. Its size and high metabolism allow the bee hummingbird to fly all day and hover as they sip nectar from flowering plants.
On average, a bee hummingbird’s wings beat 80 times per second but can increase to 200 beats per second during courtship.
No, you cannot keep a bee hummingbird as a pet. These birds must be able to fly and feed all day to keep up their buzzing metabolisms and survive. Hummingbirds are also protected in the United States, so it is illegal to keep any species as a pet.
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