Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for Bee

...Hummingbird.  The Bee Hummingbird!  The Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) is found solely on the island of Cuba so, sadly, most of you will never get to see these guys in your life.  The males possess brightly colored breeding plumage that is shed shortly after breeding (March - June) and replaced by more drab plumage.  The females have green plumage with white tips on the tail feathers.

They are very small hummingbirds.  The smallest in the world, in fact, at only 5-6cm long and weighing 1.6-1.9 grams.  For those non-metric folk, that's about the weight of two regular paperclips.  Can you imagine that?!  After having a Fiery-throated Hummingbird land on my finger in Costa Rica and only feeling his teeny claw tips I can't IMAGINE how this would feel-


 I doubt you'd even feel him! 

Hummingbirds are unique in their flight pattern, flapping their wings in a figure eight pattern.  This allows them to hover in the air as well as fly backwards.  Bee hummingbirds can flap their wings up to 80 times a second.  When males participate in courtship this number can increase to 200 times per second!  They can fly for up to twenty hours nonstop, much of this time is spent searching for food, mainly nectar.

The female makes a teeny tiny nest, about the size of a quarter, where she will incubate her eggs for approximately 14-16 days.  After hatching she will care for them for about 18-38 days before they leave the nest.

Just like most other species in the world the bee hummingbird is listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened.  They are no longer found in much of their historical range due to habitat loss to agriculture and introduced predators.