Bee hummingbird

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Bee hummingbird
Be.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Trochiliformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Mellisuga
Species: M. helenae
Binomial name
Mellisuga helenae
(Lembeye, 1850)

Habitat / Distribution[edit]

The bee hummingbird or zunzuncito (Mellisuga helenae) is a species of hummingbird that is endemic to the entire Cuban archipelago, including the main island of Cuba and the Isle of Youth in the West Indies.[2] Found mostly in Cuba's mogote area,[3] as well as in Playa Larga near Zapata swamp, [4] although not common, it has been spotted in western Cuba.[5]

Description[edit]

With a mass of approximately 1.6–2 g (0.056–0.071 oz) and a length of 5–6 cm (2.0–2.4 in), it is the smallest living bird.[6][7] The male has the green pileum and fiery red throat, iridescent gorget with elongated lateral plumes, bluish upper-parts, and the rest of the underparts mostly greyish white. The male is smaller than the female. The female is green above, whitish below with white tips to the outer tail feathers. Compared to other small hummingbirds, which often have a slender appearance, the Bee Hummingbird looks rounded and chunky.

Female bee hummingbirds are bluish green with a pale gray underside. The tips of their tailfeathers have white spots. Breeding males have a reddish to pink head, chin, and throat. The female lays only two eggs at a time.

As the smallest bird in the world, it is no larger than a big insect and, as its name suggests, is scarcely larger than a bee. Like all hummingbirds, it is a swift, strong flier. It also can hover over one spot like a helicopter. The wingbeat frequency of the bee hummingbird has not been measured, but in flight its wings beat so fast that they look like a blur to human eyes.

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 angle at which a person looks at the bird. The bird's slender, pointed bill is adapted for probing deep into flowers. The bee hummingbird feeds mainly on nectar, and an occasional insect or spider, by moving its tongue rapidly in and out of its mouth. In the process of feeding, the bird picks up pollen on its bill and head. When it flies from flower to flower, it transfers the pollen. In this way, it plays an important role in plant reproduction. In the space of one day the bee hummingbird may visit 1,500 flowers.[8]

Using bits of cobwebs, bark, and lichen, the female bee hummingbird builds a cup-shaped nest that is only about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter. Nests have been built on single clothespins. She lines the nest with soft plant fibers. In this nest she lays her eggs, which are no bigger than peas. She alone incubates the eggs and raises the young.

Diet[edit]

It has been reported that the Bee Hummingbird visits 15 plant species from 15 different genera. [9] However, in more recent studies only ten were found. Nine of the ten plant species that Bee Hummingbirds were found to eat are endemic to Cuba. The flowers of ten plant species visited by the Bee Hummingbird include the Hamelia patens (Rubiaceae); Chrysobalanus icaco (Chrysobalanaceae); Pavonia paludicola (Malvaceae); Forsteronia corymbosa (Apocynaceae); Lysiloma latisiliquum (Mimosaceae); Turnera ulmifolia (Passifloraceae); Antigonon leptopus (Polygonaceae); Clerodendrum aculeatum (Verbenaceae); Tournefortia hirsutissima (Boraginaceae); Cissus obovata (Vitaceae). [10]

Breeding[edit]

The Bee Hummingbird's breeding season is from March–June.[11]

Interactions[edit]

Generally speaking, the hummingbird / plant interaction is a notable example of bird-plant co-evolution and the Bee hummingbird is no exception. The food-plants provide nutrition while the hummingbird acts as pollinator. To a large extent both rely on each other for survival.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Mellisuga helenae". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ (AOU 1998, Garrido & Kirkconnell 2000)
  3. ^ IBARRA, ELENA. "BIRD SURVEYS IN THE MOGOTE VEGETATIONAL COMPLEX IN THE SIERRA DEL INFIERNO, PINAR DEL RÍO, CUBA, JUNE 2000." EL PITIRRE: 7.
  4. ^ Garrido, O. H., & A. Kirkconnell. 2000. Field guide to the birds of Cuba. Cornell Univ. Press, New York, New York, USA
  5. ^ Dalsgaard, Bo, et al. "Floral traits of plants visited by the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae)." Ornitologia Neotropical 23.1 (2012): 143-149.
  6. ^ Del Hoyo, J. Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J.(1999) Handbook of the Birds of the World Volume 5: Barn-owls to Hummingbirds Lynx Edicions, Barcelona
  7. ^ CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
  8. ^ Piper, Ross (2007), Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals, Greenwood Press.
  9. ^ Martínez García, O., L. Bacallao Mesa, & E. Nieves Lorenzo. 1998. Estudio preliminary de la conducta reproductive de Mellisuga helenae (Aves, Apodiformes) en condiciones naturals. El Pitirre 11: 102–106.
  10. ^ Dalsgaard, Bo, et al. "Floral traits of plants visited by the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae)." Ornitologia Neotropical 23.1 (2012): 143-149.
  11. ^ Martínez García, O., L. Bacallao Mesa, & E. Nieves Lorenzo. 1998. Estudio preliminary de la conducta reproductive de Mellisuga helenae (Aves, Apodiformes) en condiciones naturals. El Pitirre 11: 102–106.
  12. ^ Dalsgaard, Bo, et al. "Floral traits of plants visited by the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae)." Ornitologia Neotropical 23.1 (2012): 143-149.

External links[edit]