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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®: Bee Hummingbird

Air Date: Week of

A male bee hummingbird with his striking red head (Photo: Dave Curtis, CC)

The smallest bird in the world is a hummingbird found only in Cuba that lays eggs the size of a coffee bean. And as BirdNote®’s Mary McCann explains, they’re so small they’re often mistaken for bees.


BASCOMB: We’ll stay in the Caribbean now with a trip to Cuba. The island is the only place where you can find the world’s smallest bird. BirdNote’s Mary McCann has more.

Bee Hummingbird

[The AfroCuban Allstars - “Distinto Diferente”]
Would you like to see the world’s smallest bird? Then you’ll need to travel to Cuba.
Once on the island, your best bet for tracking down the tiny wonder is to visit a forest edge hung heavily with vines and bromeliads. There, hovering at the flowers — if you squint hard enough — you’ll find the Bee Hummingbird.
The Bee Hummingbird, which is found only in Cuba, is an absolute miniature, even among hummingbirds. It measures a mere two and a quarter inches long. Bee Hummingbirds are often mistaken for bees. They weigh less than two grams — less than a dime. That’s half the weight of our backyard hummers, like the Ruby-throated or Rufous. The female builds a nest barely an inch across. Her eggs are about the size of a coffee bean.


A female bee hummingbird (Photo: Patty McGann, CC)


In flight, the Bee Hummingbird’s tiny wings beat 80 times a second. And during a courtship flight, they beat up to 200 times per second! The male’s entire head and throat shine in fiery pinkish-red, and blazing red feathers point like spikes down the sides of the breast.
A sight to behold!

   Written by Bob Sundstrom
. Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. 121909 recorded by Gregory F Budney.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2017 Tune In to Nature.org  September 2018/2019  Narrator: Mary McCann



Find this story and more on the BirdNote® website


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