Like many species in the world, birds come in various shapes, colors, and sizes. There’s quite a broad spectrum from the largest living birds, ostriches, to the smallest bird. Are you looking to discover the world’s smallest bird species?
It’s easy for the large birds in wildlife to attract considerable attention, but even the tiniest birds also play a significant role in our ecosystem. This article provides a guide to understanding the tiniest birds in the world. You’ll also discover the fascinating nature of the smallest bird in the world.
There are about 11,000 bird species in the world. These birds come from almost every corner of the world. Many come in tiny sizes. Discover some of the world’s smallest birds.
Wondering what the world’s smallest bird is? Well, it’s the Bee Hummingbird. This miniature bird stands out even amongst other hummingbirds for its tiny size. Its name accurately represents its similarity with bees in their flight and landing style. However, the Bee Hummingbird is only slightly larger than a bee. The males measure about 5.5 cm in length. Measuring approximately 6.1 cm long, the females are barely larger. In terms of weight, the males weigh about 1.9 g and the females, 2.6 g.
The males and females share the feature of having blue backs. To distinguish them, you can observe that the males are adorned with fiery red gorgets that the females don’t have. Interestingly, the colors of the males may change during the mating season.
The female builds tiny nests for housing Bee Hummingbird hatchlings around an inch across. When young ones hatch, the male birds aren’t involved in parenting.
The Bee Hummingbird shares various similarities with bees. It seeks out nectar from the tropical flowers of the Cuban island region, which its long beak is perfect for accessing at the base of flowers. Bees also feed on nectar in flowers, apart from similarities in flight style and chunky appearance. Apart from nectar in flowers, the Bee Hummingbird also feeds on insects for nourishment and survival. It will visit several flowers each day in search of food.
The Bee Hummingbird is an active flyer that can visit as many as 1500 flowers a day. This suggests that its tiny size and tiny wings, which beat 80 times per second, are strong enough to carry it. Besides this interesting fact, Bee Hummingbirds play an important role in our ecosystem. Insects aren’t the only ones that pollinate flowers. The Bee Hummingbird also pollinates flowers as it carries pollen from one plant to the other plants. As a result, it contributes to the plant fertilization process and aids the production of seeds and fruits.
You can find Bee Hummingbirds specifically in Cuba. Although, researchers have found a few in regions like Haiti and Jamaica. The Bee Hummingbird doesn’t migrate elsewhere due to its satisfaction with the subtropical climate.
As the seasons change, the Bee Hummingbird will move within short distances. The purpose of this movement is to locate high-quality nectar for feeding.
The Bee Hummingbird also has the smallest bird nest, which is no surprise. Also, the eggs of the female Bee Hummingbirds are about the size of a coffee bean. However, despite being the smallest bird in the world, it plays a not insignificant part in the ecosystem.
Whereas not the smallest bird in the world, the Goldcrest is the smallest bird in Europe with an average weight of 6 g and length at about 9 cm. Goldcrests have a grey-green color on their bodies with yellow and black stripes on their heads. These species appear in European folktale as the king of birds, and their golden crowns showcase this. Goldcrests’ wings spread to around 13.5 to 15.5 cm wide.
They may require minimal resources, unlike larger birds, and have adaptive features for survival. For instance, Goldcrest's beak is very thin. This makes it easy for the bird to access food in small spots. Like the world’s smallest bird, the Goldcrest also feeds on insects. Goldcrests feed on things like spiders, bugs, caterpillars, and moth eggs.
You’ll find it hard to distinguish between a male and female Goldcrest as they share many physical similarities. However, the crest is what really sets the male apart from the female when you examine these birds. You’ll most likely notice the crest’s prominence during mating season, which they use as a way to attract a female Goldcrest. Male Goldrests bow their heads and also lift their crests, and the colorful nature of the crest then catches the female’s attention.
You’ll find Goldcrests across Europe and Asia. They are primarily present in gardens and woodland areas. Due to Goldcrests’ small size, you may not quickly locate them. However, if you listen closely, you’ll hear their melodies as they sing in groups with a zi-zi-zi sound. They also like to connect and move around in small groups.
A Goldcrest’s wings allow it to move quickly from one place to another. When you see a Goldcrest, you’ll notice how hyperactive it is as it moves across branches. Unlike a Bee Hummingbird, a Goldcrest can fly long distances. However, this distance can be hindered due to harsh weather conditions.
With a name that accurately reflects its small body, the Weebill is another one of the smallest bird species. Weebills have a grey-brown color on their heads, olive-brown back, and pale yellow underparts. Their feathers have grey tints. This tiny bird also has a short small beak or bill.
On average, a Weebill is around 8 cm in length and 6 g in weight. Male and female weebills look similar. When distinguishing the old from the young, you’ll notice that the young birds have greyer-looking eyes compared to the pale cream of the adults.
Looking for Weebills? You can find them across mainland Australia. This family of birds is native to the continent's jungles and woodland areas. They are also the region's smallest bird species. These birds occupy largely wooden areas and favor dry eucalyptus forests. Weebills often stay in pairs or little groups.
Also, they tend to remain in a particular area throughout the year. A Weebill will use its bill to pick small insects for feeding. This bird will feed primarily on insects, larvae, and sometimes, seeds. This bird neatly weaves its dome-shaped nest using grass and plant fibers materials. Within the nest, there are soft vegetable matter and feathers.
We’ve established that the female solely raises the chicks within the Bee Hummingbird family. Unlike that category of Hummingbirds, male and female Weebills raise their chicks together. However, the female solely incubates the eggs. Afterward, after about 10 to 12 days, the eggs hatch.
The flowerpecker family consists of small birds, usually ranging from 10 cm upwards. This group of birds is the smallest found in India and many South Asian regions.
As the name suggests, the Pale-Billed Flowerpecker has a curved pale bill. The bird, on average, is about 8 cm long and weighs about 6 to 8 g. Pale-billed Flowerpeckers have a mix of grey, olive, and brown tones on their bodies. These birds have high-pitched voices, and you can find them around urban gardens and mangrove forests. They are scattered around countries like India, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.
You’ll mostly find Pale-billed Flowerpeckers on berry trees as they feed on berries and nectar. This family of birds usually live together in pairs. When searching for food, they often go in groups and sometimes go foraging with other bird species.
Whereas the mistletoe species is poisonous to human beings, it serves as a valuable food source to the birds. Interestingly, the Pale-Billed Flowerpecker adds mistletoe berries to its diet. After swallowing the berries, the seeds go through the bird’s body within 3 to 4 minutes. After passing through their gut, the seed generates a sticky coating. This coating allows the seed to stick to a tree’s branch and eventually germinate.
Although extremely small, the Pale-Billed Flowerpecker possesses an advanced digestion process. Furthermore, these birds also pollinate the flowers of certain plant species, similar to the bee and Bee Hummingbird.
Pale-Billed Flowerpeckers usually breed between January and June. A second period sometimes occurs in September. This second breeding period is particularly prominent in the Southern India region. The female birds lay around 2 or 3 eggs in the nest.
This bird species crafts its small nest using materials like fine grass. You’ll find the nest suspended from tree branches with colors ranging from pink and brown to red.
Moving to the African region, the Southern Penduline-Tit is the smallest bird in the region. You can find this bird in countries like Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Angola, and Zimbabwe. This species is also known as the Cape Penduline-Tit.
Southern Penduline-Tits is around 8 to 9 cm long. They have dark green backs, yellow underparts, and grey heads. You’ll also notice white and black patterns in front of their heads when you look closely. They have tiny dark-colored beaks that they use for picking food.
Southern Penduline-Tits prefer tall thorny trees, and you'll often find them hanging upside down when food searching. They usually go foraging in small groups or pairs. The birds hunt for prey on the leaves of trees and sometimes on spider webs. These birds mainly enjoy larvae and insects. Other times, they may include fruits in their diet. As earlier mentioned, they prefer tall thorny trees, and this stays true when building nests. Males and females work together to craft the nest. The nest imitates the appearance of an oval-shaped bag, and they use materials like plants and down wool. Their nests feature an entrance spout that they can open and close.
These birds are largely collaborative when searching for food and when raising chicks. They mate monogamously. However, when it’s time to hatch the eggs, you’ll find them in small units of about four birds. The males and females participate in incubating the eggs. The incubation period usually lasts for about 13 to 15 days, after which the unit helps to raise the younglings.
The Verdin is amongst the smallest birds in the world, with a length of 10 cm and a weight of about 7 g. You can easily identify Verdins with their bright yellow faces contrasting their dull grey bodies. Both sexes have similar physical features. They have darker toned feathers compared with lighter underparts. It may be slightly tricky to recognize the younger ones as they lack the bright yellow color on their faces. As a result, the younglings are mainly a plain, dull grey.
Although small, Verdins are highly adaptable birds and occupy hot desert regions. You'll find them mainly in Mexico and the Southwest USA. They often craft bulky nests that can sustain them through various seasons in the dry regions. Their nests have hollow oval shapes, with the females often using one for raising the younglings.
When foraging, a Verdin will use different tactics to acquire food. One of such tactics includes hanging upside down on a branch to access its meal. Verdins feed on small insects, berries, seeds, and nectar. Their parenting style involves both parents actively feeding and raising the youngling.
Birds come in various shapes and sizes. As we’ve examined in this article, many of them are so small that you could almost mistake them for insects. Apart from the Bee Hummingbird, which is the smallest bird in the world, many others exist with tiny bodies and tiny wings. However, we’ve highlighted some of the smallest ones around the globe and its continents.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.