Meet the World’s Largest and Smallest Hummingbirds
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You might think all hummingbirds are about the same size, but two species stand out as the largest and smallest hummingbirds on earth.
Not all hummingbirds are created equal. Discover the species that are the largest and smallest hummingbirds in the world, as well as the smallest birds you can see in the United States.
Largest Hummingbird in the World
The largest of the 340-odd worldwide species is—you guessed it—the giant hummingbird, which is widely distributed in the Andes. This enigmatic bird is 9 inches long with a wingspan of more than 8 inches. It’s bigger than a barn swallow and as long as an American robin or northern cardinal, though more slender. And like all hummers, even this behemoth is extremely light in weight, at about 0.85 ounces, and capable of amazingly acrobatic flight. But compared to smaller hummers it appears somewhat cumbersome and hovers at a rate of only about 15 wingbeats per second—on the slow side.
Smallest Hummingbird in the World
At the other end of the size spectrum, the tiny bee hummingbird, endemic to Cuba, is the world’s smallest bird. It weighs less than a tenth of an ounce—less than a U.S. penny—and is just barely over 2 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. This species buzzes along at 80 wingbeats per second; some say it sounds like a bumblebee. Males are turquoise with vibrant red heads.
Smallest Bird in the United States
The dainty calliope hummingbird, at about 3 1/4 inches long, is the smallest bird breeding north of Mexico in North America. Males have a red-and-white-streaked throat or gorget (sometimes the red verges on magenta). A mountain specialist, this species breeds as high as timberline from the Sierra Nevada and Cascade crest to the Rockies. When subalpine meadows burst into colorful bloom, look for these unobtrusive little birds hover-feeding at wildflowers that may not grow more than a few inches high.
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Their annual path takes them as far north as the Canadian Rockies of central British Columbia. Calliopes spend winter on the Pacific side of central and southern Mexico. In fact, this circuitous journey can reach 5,000 miles for some individuals. This makes the calliope the world’s smallest long-distance migratory bird.
To learn more, check out The Hummingbird Handbook: Everything You Need to Know About These Fascinating Birds, published by Timber Press.