Hummingbirds are some of the smallest bird species in the world; their size is one of their most defining traits. They can delicately sip nectar from flowers, and can fly so quickly that they’re sometimes hard to see.
But how big are they really? The difference in size between a hummingbird and other common birds in your backyard may be surprising.
Hummingbirds are not big at all. On average, they’re between three and six inches long. However, the smallest hummingbird is only a little over two inches long. Even at their largest, a hummingbird will only reach about eight and a half inches in length. A nestling hummingbird weighs less than a single dime.
The Smallest Species: The Bee Hummingbird
Hummingbirds in general are very small.
But how tiny can hummingbirds get? The answer lies with the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae). It turns out that this species is not only the smallest hummingbird, but also the smallest bird in the world.
Bee hummingbirds live only in Cuba and average two and a quarter inches long (5.71 cm). They weigh just 0.07 ounces (two grams). How does that compare to other common North American birds?
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Not only are their bodies small, but bee hummingbirds have smaller bills relative to their size than other hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds use their long bills along with a curling tongue to drink nectar from deep within flowers. Sometimes the beaks are long with a distinct curve.
But bee hummingbirds have straight beaks; they prefer to drink from flowers that are more horizontal for easier access.
The bee hummingbird doesn’t get its name just from its size, however. It stems from the sound of their wings. Depending on their size, hummingbirds can beat their wings between 10 and 80 times per second.
That much movement makes some noise. The fluttering wings of the bee hummingbird make a buzzing sound similar to that of a bumblebee.
The Largest Species: The Giant Hummingbird
But compared to the largest birds worldwide, these giant hummingbirds are still incredibly small. Even common backyard birds are larger, although some just barely.
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Because they’re so large, at least in comparison to most hummingbirds, giant hummingbirds can’t flap their wings as fast. Their wings only beat about 10 to 15 times per second.
Hummingbird Eggs And Nests
Since they’re not very big, hummingbirds don’t need large, sturdy branches for their nests. They often choose thin branches not much more than a foot away from the trunk to build their cup nests.
There are over 350 hummingbird species throughout the world, and each one has its own way of building nests. In general, though, a hummingbird’s nest is not much more than one inch across.
Like many birds, hummingbirds use twigs, leaves, and fibrous materials for the nest base. Hummingbirds then add moss, which not only provides camouflage, but also makes the nest softer.
But the real trick to building a hummingbird nest is spider silk. They gather the silk and roll it over their nest. Then, they poke the silk into any nooks and crannies to make sure it anchors the nest.
After they build the nest, hummingbirds will lay their tiny eggs. These are often white, sometimes with speckles, and weigh less than one paperclip.
The female usually lays two eggs one at a time over one or two days.
If the largest hummingbird species is only the size of a regular envelope, then their babies must be minuscule.
A baby hummingbird is also called a nestling, chick, or hatchling. Most hummingbird chicks weigh less than a dime.
In fact, they’re born with feet so small that they can’t support their bodies. They are also born without feathers and their eyes closed.
The mother feeds her chicks insects and nectar a few times a day. She’ll continue to feed them for a month or two until they’re ready to go out on their own.
After two weeks in the nest, nestlings start to exercise their wings.
Within a month, they can begin to leave the nest as fledglings.
One of the things hummingbirds are most well-known for is their diminutive size. But many might not know exactly how small a hummingbird can be or how big it can get.
The average hummingbird is not very big, usually between three and six inches. But the bee hummingbird is even smaller. Not only is it the smallest hummingbird in the world, but it’s also the smallest bird species overall. It’s just over two inches long and weighs less than an eighth of an ounce.
On the other end of the spectrum, one hummingbird species can get as big as 8.6 inches: the giant hummingbird. It weighs ten times as much as the bee hummingbird, but still only weighs 0.7 ounces.