Bee Hummingbird (Birds)






Mellisuga helenae
Bee Hummingbird

key features

• The smallest known bird in the world, smaller even than some day-flying moth species
• Beats its wings 50-80 times a second to maneuver in midair
• Hovers in front of flowers to sip nectar from their petals
• Male is territorial and defends a good source of nectar from other hummingbirds

where in the world?

Confined to Cuba’s main island and the Island of Pines in the Caribbean; found mainly in parks, gardens and open woodland, wherever its favored food source (nectar-rich flowers) is most abundant


The bee hummingbird is the world’s smallest bird. To feed, it spends its time buzzing from flower to flower and sipping the sugary nectar that provides its energy.


In its Caribbean island habitat, the bee hummingbird is usually seen around small flowers, since its tiny beak can’t reach the nectar of larger flowers.
The hummingbird is solitary; the male in particular stakes out a territory with a good source of nectar and busily patrols it, chasing intruding hummingbirds away. Favorite perches include the highest tree-tops and telephone wires.
Dry tropical forest Dry tropical scrub & thorn forest
Dry tropical forest
Dry tropical scrub & thorn forest
Range of the bee hummingbird
A Island life
The bee hummingbird is native to two Cuban islands.
A Island life The bee hummingbird is native to two Cuban islands.
► Nut-sized nursery The nest measures less than 1″ across its rim.


The bee hummingbird feeds on nectar, a vital food for a bird that uses energy so rapidly.
The hummingbird reaches nectar by hovering in front of a flower. Completely still except for its whirring wings, it reaches inside petals to take nectar on its long, brush-tipped tongue.
Favorite plants include coral plant and scarlet bush. A bloom-laden shrub may attract a group of hummingbirds, although typically each bird visits plants in rotation, giving each plant time to replenish its nectar.The hummingbird may also eat small insects and spiders.
As the hummingbird drinks from a flower, its head is dusted with pollen, which it carries to other flowers as it feeds. In doing so, it fertilizes the flowers and helps the plants colonize its habitat.


The male hummingbird sings a song of high-pitched squeaks and twitters to attract a mate, a song he learns as he matures by listening to other males. Several males may compete for one female, with much chasing and excited twittering. After mating, however, the male fulfills no further parental duties.
Using plant fiber and lichens, the female weaves a cup-shaped nest the size of half a walnut shell and binds it to a branch with spiders’webs. She lays two white eggs 0.3″ long and 0.009 oz.
The female feeds her tiny nestlings by regurgitating nectar into their throats. Young hummingbirds grow slowly and take more than 18 days to fledge; poor weather or food scarcity can delay their progress even further
Hovercraft Figure-eight wingbeats allow the hummingbird to maneuver with precision.
A Sugary drink A hummingbird takes nectar from "flame of the woods," a favored plant.tmp19-10_thumb
A Sugary drink A hummingbird takes nectar from “flame of the woods,” a favored plant.
The genus name, Mellisuga, means “honey-sucker.” Its species name, Helenae, honors Helena Booth, the benefactress of Juan Gundlach, who first identified the bird.
The hummingbird makes up for its tiny size in sheer bravado. Researchers in Cuba were dive-bombed by a furious male when they “trespassed” on his territory.


There are about 100,000 bee hummingbirds, all in a small area on Cuba and the Island of Pines.This limited range makes it vulnerable to freak weather (hurricanes), which can wreak havoc on island plants. However, as long as it has access to suitable flowers and nesting trees, the hummingbird is assured a future. It adapts readily to living in parks and gardens, so human influence may even be beneficial.


The hummingbird flies with masterly control, but such maneuverability has its cost, as the energy required rapidly exhausts the bird. To fuel its high body temperature and energy consumption, it feeds almost ceaselessly by day
In the cool of the night, the hummingbird stops feeding. Because the bird is too small to stay warm while it remains inactive, it falls into a torpor — its body temperature and heart rate fall, reducing its energy needs.

small but fearless

1 Sip…
Hovering in front of a flower in its personal feeding territory, a male extends its beak into the
bloom to sip nectar.
Move on
2 Move on…
The bird flits to other flowers, drinking sparingly from each so as not to drain them.Then another bird draws close to feed…
3 Repel…
…but the resident male isn’t in the mood for sharing his nectar resources.Angrily, he stabs at the intruder with his sharp beak.
4 Success
The visitor gives up and beats a hasty retreat to try his luck elsewhere, leaving the victorious resident to continue feeding.


Bee Hummingbird

While hovering to feed, this tiny living jewel beats its wings so rapidly that they disappear in a blur and produce an insectlike hum.
Bee Hummingbird


The world’s smallest bird, the bee hummingbird is no larger than the eye of the flightless ostrich (the largest bird, about 8′ tall). An ostrich weighs about 50,000 times more than the hummingbird; its egg is 3,000 times heavier The heaviest flying birds (bustards and swans) weigh about 8,000 times more than the bee hummingbird.

vital’ statistics
Weight 0.07 oz.
Length 2.4″
Wingspan About 4″
Sexual I Maturity 1 year
1 Mating Season May nest year-round; linked to availability of nectar
Number of Eggs 2
Incubation ‘ Period 14-19 days
Fledging Period 18 days or more, depending on weather
Breeding Interval Unknown
Typical Diet Nectar and a few small insects
Lifespan Unknown

Related species

• There are more than 330 hummingbird species in the family Trochilidae, all in the Americas. Most species live in warm tropical areas, but the family as a whole ranges from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. The bee hummingbird’s closest relative is the vervain hummingbird of Jamaica and Hispaniola. This bird is 0.2″ longer than the bee hummingbird and its plumage is less colorful.

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