We are reminiscing a lot these days about past trips and amazing experiences we have had over the past several years. Cuba is one destination that is always high on our list of most memorable trips. Everyone who has joined us in Cuba has had an incredible experience. We were able to observe a staggering number of birds during our 2017 tour to Cuba – 181 species in all! This included all the viable endemics and most of the regional endemics. One of the highlights, of course, was the must-see Bee Hummingbird, the smallest hummingbird in the world.
The Bee Hummingbird is a tiny gem and a super brilliant one at that. The males are adorned with a vibrant crown and gorget of fiery reds, oranges and yellows. Its royal-blue back, wings and sides contrast nicely with its shimmering gorget. Females lack the iridescent crown and gorget, but still maintain the beautiful blue back and wings.
The Smallest Bird in the World
But what’s perhaps the most amazing thing about the Bee Hummingbird is its tiny size. It measures only 2.24 inches (5.7 cm) in length, including its bill! Truly as light as feathers, this minuscule denizen of Cuban woodlands weighs only about 2 grams. Its appearance and flight style rivals that of some insects, especially bees, for which it gets its name. The Bee Hummingbird is also the bird with the smallest nest in the world, at only 1 inch in diameter and depth. Their eggs are also the smallest bird eggs in the world, measuring a mere 12.5 x 8.5 mm, the size of a coffee bean. A Bee Hummingbird egg is only half the weight of a standard paper clip!
Like other hummingbirds, it feeds on nectar and insects. The Bee Hummingbird is a strong flier and very active, visiting up to 1500 flowers a day! It has a fast metabolism, and consumes up to half its own body weight in nectar a day! As it feeds, it picks up pollen on its long, thin bill and transfers it to other flowers, aiding in plant pollination.
Endemic to Cuba, the Bee Hummingbird has a patchy distribution on the island. It is most frequently encountered on the extreme western end and in the Zapata Peninsula. Males prefer to perch on exposed branches, making them great subjects for photography! You can learn more about the Bee Hummingbird and listen to its call on eBird.
A Highlight on our Cuba tours
The Bee Hummingbird is, needless to say, a highlight on our tours to Cuba. Spotting this tiny gem is a thrill, especially to know you are watching the smallest hummingbird in the world. Cuba is full of interesting birds in addition to the Bee Hummingbird, such as the unusual Bare-legged Owl and the spectacular Cuban Trogon. Check out our past trip reports to Cuba and join us for our next tour to this amazing country.
~ The Whitehawk Team