Bee Hummingbird

Bee Hummingbird

Zunzuncito, Helena hummingbird

Mellisuga helenae
Population size
Life Span
7-10 yrs
48 km/h
1.6-2 g
5-6 cm
3.3 cm

The Bee hummingbird is the world's smallest bird. Compared to other small hummingbirds, which often have a slender appearance, the Bee hummingbird looks rounded and plump. The male has a green pileum and bright red throat, iridescent gorget (colored feathers on the throat) with elongated lateral plumes, bluish upperparts, and the rest of the underparts mostly greyish white. The female is bluish-green with a pale gray underside. The tip of its tail feathers has white spots.


Bee hummingbirds are native to the entire Cuban archipelago, including the main island of Cuba and the Isla de la Juventud in the West Indies. They live in rainforest, dry forest and at forest edges with bushes and lianas. They can also be found in mountain valleys, swamplands, and gardens.


Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Bee hummingbirds are sedentary and only make short movements to the nearby islands. They lead a solitary life and are very territorial on their feeding areas aggressively chasing away intruders. Bee hummingbirds are active during the day; they feed mainly on nectar, and an occasional insect or spider, by moving their tongue rapidly in and out of their mouth. Like all hummingbirds, they are swift, strong fliers and are able to fly straight up, down, backward and even upside down. Bee hummingbirds communicate with each other using high-pitched songs squeaking and twittering sounds and make “tsit” calls while feeding.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Bee hummingbirds are herbivores (nectarivores) and feed on the nectar of different flowers. They also occasionally eat insects and spiders.

Mating Habits

21-22 days
18-38 days
2 eggs

Bee hummingbirds are polygynous; they don't form pairs and a single male may mate with more than one female during the breeding season. These birds breed between March and June. Males perform aerial displays and sing songs to attract females. The female alone constructs the nest incubates the eggs and raises her young. Using bits of cobwebs, bark, and lichen, the female builds a cup-shaped nest that is about 2.5 cm (0.98 in) in diameter. She lines the nest with soft plant fibers. There she lays 2 eggs, which are no bigger than peas and incubates them within 21-22 days. The chicks are altricial; they hatch naked, with reddish bodies and closed eyes. They fledge at 18-38 days after hatching and reach reproductive maturity at 1 year of age.


Population threats

The main threat to Bee hummingbirds is habitat loss due to the destruction of native vegetation for agriculture. These small birds also suffer predation from tropical spiders, frogs, fish, and larger birds.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Bee hummingbird total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Bee hummingbirds play an important role in their ecosystem. During the feeding time, these birds pick up pollen on their bills and heads. When they fly from flower to flower, they transfer the pollen and this way assist in plant reproduction.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • As its name suggests, the Beed hummingbird is scarcely larger than a bee. During the flight, it makes a buzzy noise, similar to a bumblebee.
  • During the mating season, male Bee hummingbirds' head, chin, and throat become reddish to pink in color.
  • 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.
  • In one day, the Bee hummingbird may visit 1,500 flowers!
  • During the aerial courtship display, the male’s wings may beat up to 200 times per second!
  • Bee hummingbirds have a very high breathing speed; a bird at rest takes around 250 breaths per minute.
  • Bee hummingbirds have the second-fastest heartbeat among animals; their heart beats 1,200 times per minute. The other known animal with fast heartbeat is only Asian shrew.
  • Bee hummingbirds are able to fly up to 20 hours without a break!


1. Bee Hummingbird on Wikipedia -
2. Bee Hummingbird on The IUCN Red List site -

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