The world’s smallest bird is the Bee Hummingbird, which is endemic to Cuba and The Isle of Youth. Weighing a miniscule 1.8 grams and about 5 cm. long, this tiny feathered creature has the size and flight behavior of a bee. Hovering from one flower to another, its wings beat at an astounding rate of 80 times per second making it seem to appear as a blur to the naked human eye. However, this is nothing compared to the dizzying speed of 200 wing flaps the male Bee Hummingbird displays during the mating season such that only cameras with ultra high speed aperture settings can capture the image of this tiny wonder in flight.
While the world’s smallest bird is the fastest, its 1000 feathers which propel it in flight, is ironically the fewest among other bird species which normally have about 25000 feathers. Its rapid heart rate, which is the second fastest among the world’s animals, sustain its fast wing rhythm and resulting high body temperature of 40 degrees Centigrade. Despite its miniscule size, this marvelous winged creature has a voracious appetite — eating food and drinking water that are respectively equivalent to half and eight times their body mass in a single day.
Just like other hummingbird species, the Bee Hummingbird has a long, pointed tube-like bill that enables it to probe deep into flowers and suck up nectar with its slender tongue. Occasionally, this smallest bird also feeds on whatever spiders, mites and other insects that come along. As it flutters from flower to flower, it picks up pollen on its head and bill, which are transferred to other flowers that aid in plant pollination. The Bee Hummingbird plays a very important ecological role because it is able to visit and pollinate about 1500 flowers in a single day.
Except during the breeding season, the world’s smallest bird is by nature a solitary and territorial creature. Despite its diminutive size, it can be very aggressive and defends its blossom tree territory against any other intruder birds. Using barks, lichen and cobwebs, it builds an equally small cup-shaped nest about an inch in diameter and lines this with soft material and fibers. Laying a couple of eggs no bigger than coffee beans, the female Bee Hummingbird incubates and hatches these around the middle of the year. While this tiny flying wonder was once common, its number is rapidly dwindling due to urban encroachment on its feeding and breeding grounds.