The bee hummingbird, zunzuncito or Helena hummingbird (Mellisuga
helenae) is a species of hummingbird which is the world's smallest
3 Habitat and distribution
Coevolution with flowers
6 See also
8 External links
The bee hummingbird is the smallest living bird. Females weigh
2.6 g (0.092 oz) and are 6.1 cm (2.4 in) long, and
are slightly larger than males, with an average weight of 1.95 g
(0.069 oz) and length of 5.5 cm (2.2 in). As its
name suggests, it is scarcely larger than a bee. Like all
hummingbirds, it is a swift, strong flier.
The male has a green pileum and fiery red throat, iridescent gorget
with elongated lateral plumes, bluish upper parts, and the rest of the
underparts mostly greyish white. The male is smaller than the
female. The female is green above, whitish below, with white tips to
the outer tail feathers. Compared to other small hummingbirds, which
often have a slender appearance, the bee hummingbird looks rounded and
Female bee hummingbirds are bluish green with a pale gray underside.
The tips of their tail feathers have white spots. During the mating
season, males have a reddish to pink head, chin, and throat. The
female lays only two eggs at a time, each about the size of a coffee
The brilliant, iridescent colors of the bee hummingbird's feathers
make the bird seem like a tiny jewel. The iridescence is not always
noticeable, but depends on the viewing angle. The bird's slender,
pointed bill is adapted for probing deep into flowers. The bee
hummingbird feeds mainly on nectar, and an occasional insect or
spider, by moving its tongue rapidly in and out of its mouth. In the
process of feeding, the bird picks up pollen on its bill and head.
When it flies from flower to flower, it transfers the pollen. In this
way, it plays an important role in plant reproduction. In one day, the
bee hummingbird may visit 1,500 flowers.[page needed]
Using bits of cobwebs, bark, and lichen, the female bee hummingbird
builds a cup-shaped nest that is only about 2.5 cm (0.98 in)
in diameter. Nests have been built on single clothespins. She lines
the nest with soft plant fibers. In this nest she lays her eggs, which
are no bigger than peas. She alone incubates the eggs and raises the
The bee hummingbird has been reported to visit 10 plant species; nine
of them were found to be endemic to Cuba. These flowers include
Hamelia patens (Rubiaceae),
Chrysobalanus icaco (Chrysobalanaceae),
Pavonia paludicola (Malvaceae), Forsteronia corymbosa (Apocynaceae),
Lysiloma latisiliquum (Mimosaceae), Turnera ulmifolia
Antigonon leptopus (Polygonaceae), Clerodendrum
Tournefortia hirsutissima (Boraginaceae), and
Cissus obovata (Vitaceae).
Habitat and distribution
The bee hummingbird is endemic to the entire Cuban archipelago,
including the main island of
Cuba and the
Isle of Youth
Isle of Youth in the West
Indies. It is found mainly in Cuba's mogote area and uncommonly
in Playa Larga near Zapata Swamp,[page needed] but has been
spotted in western Cuba.
Sideview of the nest
The bee hummingbird's breeding season is March–June. They lay up to
2 eggs at a time.
Coevolution with flowers
The bee hummingbird interaction with the flowers that supply nectar is
a notable example of bird–plant coevolution with its primary food
source (flowers for nectar).
BirdLife International (2016). "
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T22688214A93187682.
doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22688214A93187682.en. Retrieved 9
December 2017. CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
^ a b c d e Simon, Matt (10 July 2015). "Absurd Creature of the Week:
The World's Tiniest
Bird Weighs Less Than a Dime". Wired. Retrieved 8
^ a b Dalsgaard, B; Martín González, A. M.; Olesen, J. M.; Ollerton,
J; Timmermann, A; Andersen, L. H.; Tossas, A. G. (2009).
"Plant-hummingbird interactions in the West Indies: Floral
specialisation gradients associated with environment and hummingbird
size". Oecologia. 159 (4): 757–66. doi:10.1007/s00442-008-1255-z.
^ a b Adrienne Glick. "
Animal Diversity Web.
^ T. S. Schulenber, ed. (2010). "
Ithaca, N.Y.: Neotropical Birds Online, Cornell University Laboratory
of Ornithology. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
^ Piper, Ross (2007). Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of
Curious and Unusual Animals'. Greenwood Press.
^ a b Dalsgaard, Bo, et al. "Floral traits of plants visited by the
bee hummingbird (
Mellisuga helenae)". Ornitologia Neotropical 23.1
^ Ibarra, Elena. "
Bird Surveys In The
Mogote Vegetational Complex In
The Sierra Del Infierno, Pinar del Rio, Cuba, June 2000". El Pitirre:
^ Garrido, O. H., & A. Kirkconnell. 2000. Field guide to the birds
of Cuba. Cornell University Press, New York
^ Martínez García, Orestes; Bacallao Mesa, Loraiza; Nieves Lorenzo,
Elio (1998). "Estudio preliminar de la conducta reproductiva de
Mellisuga helenae (Aves, Apodiformes) en condiciones naturales"
[Preliminary study on the reproductive behaviour of
(Aves, Apodiformes) in natural conditions]. El Pitirre (in Spanish)
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