The bee hummingbird is an amazing, unique bird. It’s not only special among hummingbird species, but among all the birds of the world.
These birds have unique flight abilities, energy needs, mating habits, and so much more. Read on to learn about the traits and other interesting facts about the bee hummingbird.
1. Their Feet Are Too Small For Walking
Bee hummingbirds are built for flying. Their size and metabolisms allow them to fly at incredible speeds for almost their entire day.
2. 34 Percent Of Their Bodies Is Flight Muscle
In order to fly as much as they do, hummingbirds need a lot of flight muscles. Anywhere between 22 to 34 percent of their body weight is made up of these specialized muscles.
These muscles also help them fly in directions other birds can’t, such as backwards.
3. Bee Hummingbirds Can Rotate Their Wings 180 Degrees
In addition to special flight muscles, bee hummingbirds also have special shoulder joints. These let them rotate their wings 180 degrees.
This movement is part of what helps them fly backwards, which is unique to hummingbirds.
4. They Can Stop In Midair
As well as flying backwards, hummingbirds are the only birds able to make immediate stops in midair. This, along with their speed, helps them evade predators.
Bee hummingbirds can also perform “nuptial dives.” They dash down through the air several times, stopping every now and then, a movement that can scare predators.
5. Bee Hummingbirds Can Put Up A Fight
They may be small, but bee hummingbirds are feisty.
Males stake out feeding territories, which they then defend with aggressive feather displays. They’ll also chase away threats, including other males, hawk moths, and bumblebees.
6. Bee Hummingbirds Require More Energy Than A Marathon Runner
Spending most of the day in the air and moving as fast as hummingbirds do requires a lot of energy. That’s why they spend so much time eating high-energy nectar.
In fact, in relation to size, a bee hummingbird burns ten times as much energy as a marathon runner.
7. They’re Only Two Inches Long
The bee hummingbird is the smallest species of hummingbird.
They’re barely two and a quarter inches long (5-6 cm), which includes the length of their bill. For comparison, that’s about the size of a pink eraser.
8. Bee Hummingbirds Weigh Less Than One Ounce
Bee hummingbirds aren’t just small in length, but also in weight. They only weigh less than an ounce (1.75 g). That’s not much more than a postage stamp.
The next smallest bird, the vervain hummingbird, weighs about 2 grams.
9. They’re The Smallest Bird Species In The World
Hummingbirds as a whole are very tiny birds. The largest species, the giant hummingbird, is only about eight inches long.
So, the bee hummingbird isn’t just the smallest hummingbird. It holds the record as the smallest bird in the world.
10. Bee Hummingbirds Only Live In Cuba
Bee hummingbirds are endemic to Cuba. There, they live among swamps, evergreen forests, and coastal thickets.
They will even visit man-made gardens if there are enough trees and flowers.
As they only live in this one area, their numbers are small. As of 2019, they are classified as a Near Threatened Species.
11. Their Name Comes From Their Size And The Sounds They Make
The name “bee hummingbird” isn’t just because of the bird’s size. It also stems from the buzzing sound of their wings.
During a typical flight, the bee hummingbird flaps its wings around 80 times each second.
During their courting displays, however, they can beat their wings up to 200 times per second.
12. They Eat Bugs From Inside Flowers
Nectar is a main staple of any hummingbird’s diet. But many also eat insects and spiders to get their protein.
Bee hummingbirds can reach inside flowers with their long tongues, scooping up both nectar and bugs.
13. Some Flowers Are Only Accessible By Bee Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are pollinators, meaning they help flowers spread their pollen when the birds eat their nectar. Pollination is essential for the survival of flowers, so they want to encourage pollinators as much as they can.
That’s why some species in Cuba have evolved so that only bee hummingbirds can access their nectar. This ensures that bee hummingbirds return to them and that non-pollinators can’t get food without giving something in return.
14. They Have To Visit Over 1,000 Flowers A Day
In order to get all the energy that they need, hummingbirds have to eat a lot. But a single flower can only provide so much nectar.
So, bee hummingbirds have to move from flower to flower, sometimes visiting up to 1,500 in one day.
15. Bee Hummingbirds Go Through Torpor
A hummingbird’s metabolism is so fast that they have to spend most of their time eating. But how do they keep their bodies working long enough to sleep?
Bee hummingbirds go through “torpor”, which is when the body’s metabolism slows down greatly. A hummingbird’s resting metabolism can go as low as 30% of what it is during the day.
16. A Group Of Male Bee Hummingbirds Is Called A Lek
Bee hummingbirds attract mates through the use of song. When the breeding season starts, males will group together in a singing group called a lek.
A female hummingbird will visit multiple leks to choose a male with the best performance.
17. Bee Hummingbirds Can Mate In The Air
Hummingbirds rarely stop flying, usually only perching briefly or when they sleep at night. They don’t even slow down to mate.
A bee hummingbird can mate either on a perch or while hovering in midair.
18. They Are Not Monogamous
Bee hummingbirds do not have a single mate for their whole lives. They often don’t even have a single mate for one breeding season.
Males can have several different mates in a single season.
19. They Build Their Nests With Spider Webs
Female bee hummingbirds build very small cup nests for their eggs. They have thick walls made of materials like bark and moss.
Most importantly, though, they use spider webs to hold everything together. It also keeps the nest secure from the branch it’s on.
Finally, the female will line the nest with downy feathers to keep the eggs warm.
20. Their Eggs Are The Size Of Peas
A small bird only needs a small egg, and the bee hummingbird’s eggs are the tiniest.
Females will usually lay two eggs per clutch, and the eggs are no bigger than a couple of peas.
21. Baby Bee Hummingbirds Are Small But Grow Quickly
Small, blind, and almost featherless, bee hummingbird hatchlings may seem helpless. But it only takes about three weeks after hatching for a bee hummingbird to grow their wing feathers.
The mothers may feed their young for a little longer after this. But in general, bee hummingbirds are ready to leave the nest once their feathers come in.
Bee hummingbirds (Mellisuga helenae) are some of the only birds that can fly backwards and stop in midair. They’re also rare, only living in a small section of the world.
But these are only some of the things that make bee hummingbirds special. They pack a lot of amazing qualities into a very small package.