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Mellisuga helenae

Bee Hummingbird

  • Order: Apodiformes
  • Family: Trochilidae


Mellisuga helenae

Cienfuegos, Cuba; 27 May 2013 © Rafy Rodriguez

Renowned among birdwatchers everywhere as the world’s smallest bird, although the Vervain Hummingbird (Mellisuga minima), of Jamaica and Hispaniola, is virtually as tiny. The Bee Hummingbird is endemic to the main island of Cuba, although it formerly also occurred on the Isle of Youth, and is currently considered to be Near Threatened under IUCN criteria. It is easily found only in three regions of Cuba, namely the extreme west, on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, further east in the vicinity of the Zapata Swamp, and more widely in the far east of the island. The species feeds on nectar and insects. While females are distinguished from the much more widespread and ubiquitous Cuban Emerald (Chlorostilbon ricordii) by their smaller size, much shorter tail, turquoise-blue upperparts, and cleaner, whiter underparts, among other features, males, which sing from high perches and in flight, are even more easily identified, and highly sought by visiting birdwatchers, because of the brilliant iridescent red head and throat, with elongated neck plumes.

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Recommended Citation

. 2010. Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

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