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10 Fascinating Facts About the Bumblebee Hummingbird

The Bumblebee Hummingbird, a tiny bird with a giant name, is one of the smallest avian species worldwide. In this article, we will explore the identification of this species, including its field identification and similar species, as well as its plumages and molts.


Field Identification

The Bumblebee Hummingbird is a small bird with an elongated and straight beak. The adult male has iridescent emerald-green upperparts that shine brightly when caught in light.

The underparts are maroon-colored, with a small white spot on the throat. The wings appear pointed, and their feathers are mostly black.

The female, on the other hand, has similarly iridescent green upperparts but with a pale dusky-grey underpart. The throat is whitish with small glitters of green markings.

Juvenile Bumblebee Hummingbirds often resemble females, but they show brownish rather than greenish upperparts. Their underparts are greyish-brown, and the throat is buff-colored.

Similar Species

Honeycreepers, another avian species, could be mistaken for the Bumblebee Hummingbird. Honeycreepers are mostly larger, with the males having colorful iridescent plumage while the females are duller.

Another almost identical hummingbird is the Marvelous Spatuletail. They both have brightly colored emerald green upperparts and maroon underparts and a white throat.

The difference is that the spatuletail has a two-pronged tail.


Plumage is a term used to describe the feathers of a bird. The Bumblebee Hummingbird’s plumage is distinctive and prominent.

In adult males, the prominent iridescence is a result of the microstructural composition of the feathers, allowing them to reflect light differently. It is also believed that the iridescence warns away competitors or potential predators.

The plumage of females is similar, but the colors greyish instead of greenish. Juvenile Bumblebee Hummingbirds are distinguishable thanks to the brownish upperparts and buff colors on their throats.


Molting is the process by which birds replace old feathers with new ones. Most birds will undergo a few molts each year.

Bumblebee Hummingbirds are no exception. They have two molting cycles each year, during which they replace their feathers entirely.

During molting, the birds’ feathers become thinner, and the overall body size might appear a little skinnier. The bird’s behavior may also change, becoming more reticent or less likely to visit flowers.

Young Bumblebee Hummingbirds molt more frequently than adults.


The Bumblebee Hummingbird is remarkable and sometimes referred to as a living jewel. Notably, even though this tiny bird’s body size might make it seem vulnerable, its splendid plumage and speed allow it to survive even the most challenging habitats.

We hope that this article has enlightened you about this species’ identification, including its field identification, similar species, plumages, and molts. of knowledge, as the purpose of the article is to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the systematics history, geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and historical changes to distribution of the Bumblebee Hummingbird.

Systematics History

The Bumblebee Hummingbirds scientific name is Selasphorus heloisa. It belongs to the Trochilidae family, otherwise known as the hummingbird family.

The phylogenetic relationships of the Bumblebee Hummingbird are still uncertain, with some studies suggesting that it belongs to the subfamily Trochilinae, while others propose it belongs to Stellula.

Geographic Variation

The Bumblebee Hummingbird exhibits a considerable degree of geographic variation, particularly across its range. The bird is primarily distributed in South America, with its northernmost range limited by Mexico.

The species is typically divided into two groups based on their geographic distribution, with the first group being those found in the Andean regions of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. The second group is distributed from northwest Mexico to Panama, including the Great Antilles.

The Bumblebee Hummingbird has also been recorded on occasion in the United States.


The Bumblebee Hummingbird is further divided into 19 recognized subspecies. The subspecies vary in morphology, coloration, and distribution.

The most widely recognized subspecies is S. h.

heloisa, which is distributed in Mexico and breeds from May to July. The male has a vibrant emerald green coloration while the female is duller with a greyish-green upperpart.

Other notable subspecies of the Bumblebee Hummingbird include the S. h.

inca, distributed in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, among other countries. The male has a more extensive tail, longer warrant feathers, and a slightly different iridescence than other subspecies.

Another subspecies of note is the S. h.

venezuelensis, which is distributed across Venezuela, Colombia, and parts of Panama.

Related Species

The Bumblebee Hummingbird is part of the Selasphorus genus, which comprises a total of twelve hummingbird species, most of which are distributed in North America. The genus Selasphorus is known for its iridescent plumage and noisy vocalizations.

The Bumblebee Hummingbird is most commonly compared to the Broad-tailed Hummingbird, which shares similar morphology and coloring with the Bumblebee Hummingbird. The Broad-tailed Hummingbird, however, has a more restricted range, limited primarily to the western region of the United States.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Although the Bumblebee Hummingbird maintains a relatively large range, its distribution has undergone changes over time. The bird’s range is believed to have expanded over time, with bird watchers observing the species as far north as Canada.

Climate change and habitat destruction are the primary reasons for the declining populations of the Bumblebee Hummingbird. Climate change has resulted in changes to the bird’s habitat, hampering its ability to find adequate food and breeding sites.

Human activities, such as deforestation and mining, have also threatened the Bumblebee Hummingbird’s habitat.


In conclusion, the Bumblebee Hummingbird remains an incredibly vibrant and graceful bird, with a rich history and distribution over various habitats in South America and Mexico. Its geographic variation, subspecies, and related species highlight the species’ evolutionary history.

However, its extensive range has seen a decline over the years due to changes in climate, habitat destruction, and human activities. It is critical that conservation efforts continue to protect this beautiful and charismatic species, ensuring its continued survival and enrichment of our environment.

of knowledge, as the purpose of the article is to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of Bumblebee Hummingbird’s habitat, movements, and migration.


The Bumblebee Hummingbird inhabits various habitats, including tropical and subtropical zones. These habitats include open woods, gardens, meadows, and forest clearings.

However, they are most commonly found in humid montane forests at higher elevations throughout South America. The bird is generally not territorial and is often found feeding together in small groups.

Their preferred habitat has a dense concentration of flowers, particularly those with tubular shape, allowing for their long, thin beaks. The bird’s habitat preferences may vary depending on the season, with some populations living in more arid and open habitats during the non-breeding season.

Movements and Migration

The Bumblebee Hummingbird has a wide distribution, reaching from Mexico to the Andes Mountains in South America. Populations of Bumblebee Hummingbirds are generally sedentary, migrating only short distances in response to changing environmental conditions.

During the breeding season, Bumblebee Hummingbirds are primarily found at higher elevations, from sea level to around 4000 meters. Males are more concentrated at the highest elevations, while females prefer lower elevations.

In contrast, during the non-breeding season, the birds are generally found at lower elevations. The Bumblebee Hummingbird displays a level of altitudinal migration during the year.

These movements occur between the breeding and non-breeding seasons, with some individuals moving to lowland sites at altitudes below 500m. Migration patterns differ from one population to another, with some populations migrating only short distances, while others undertake longer movements between populations.

Movement of Bumblebee Hummingbirds’ populations depend on a variety of factors, including food resources, climate, and breeding patterns. Migration patterns may cause considerable differences between populations in appearance, gene expression patterns, and physical characteristics.

For instance, birds that migrate long distances may have more extended wings, allowing for more efficient flying. In contrast, sedentary populations may have shorter wings that are more effective for hovering during feeding.

The Bumblebee Hummingbird may also exhibit irruptive movements, where individuals move to new areas in response to specific environmental cues, such as extreme weather or food shortages. These movements may occur over long distances and may result in population shifts over time.

During irruptive movements, Bumblebee Hummingbirds tend to occupy habitats that have a higher density of flowers, providing greater food availability.


In conclusion, the Bumblebee Hummingbird is a highly adaptable bird, capable of thriving in a variety of environments, including open woods, gardens, meadows, and forest clearings. These habitats provide the bird with a dense concentration of flowers, which are an essential source of nourishment.

The Bumblebee Hummingbird exhibits altitudinal migration and in some instances, an irruptive movement, in response to environmental factors such as food availability and weather. These movements help the bird adapt to varying environmental conditions, ensuring its survival and continued enrichment of our ecosystems.

Understanding the Bumblebee Hummingbird’s movements and habitat preferences is critical in devising conservation strategies for the species, given the increased threats to the bird resulting from human activities and climate change. of knowledge, as the purpose of the article is to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the Bumblebee Hummingbird’s diet and foraging, as well as their sound and vocal behavior.

Diet and Foraging


The Bumblebee Hummingbird is a nectarivorous bird, feeding mainly on the nectar of flowering plants. Its long, thin bill allows it to extract nectar from flowers with tubular corollas, such as Brugmansia, Fuchsia, Lobelia, and Weigela.

Apart from nectar, they extract some invertebrates from flowers to get the necessary protein for their bodies. Hummingbirds are known for their hovering ability, and the Bumblebee Hummingbird is not an exception.

The bird can fly in mid-air and maintain its position for extended periods while feeding. It is one of the mechanisms hummingbirds use to regulate their food intake, getting enough energy to maintain high metabolic rates.


The Bumblebee Hummingbird has a high metabolic rate, requiring a diet rich in sugars and carbohydrates. However, their diet is deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and sodium.

As a result, the Bumblebee Hummingbird has developed mechanisms to compensate for this deficiency.

One mechanism is the consumption of insects, which can provide the bird with minerals and vitamins.

The bird catches insects in flight; they snatch them from spiderwebs or pluck them from plants. They may prey on small invertebrates such as spiders, fruit flies, and gnats, which provide them with necessary protein, vitamins, calcium, and other minerals.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Bumblebee Hummingbird is unique since it has an incredibly fast metabolism rate compared to other birds. The bird maintains an internal body temperature of around 41C through elevated metabolic rates, which may consume energy equivalent to several times its weight in nectar, which must be consumed frequently.

The bird’s temperature regulation mechanism has allowed it to exploit high-altitude habitats that are too cold for other tropical birds. They can maintain a high metabolism rate and control its temperature well in these environments, adapting to various environmental stressors, such as temperature fluctuations and high altitudes.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Bumblebee Hummingbird has a unique and high-pitched call, consisting of a sharp, high, and buzzy sound. The bird’s calls are generally used for various purposes, including courtship, communication, and threat displays.

For example, when a male Bumblebee Hummingbird tries to court a female, it may twit, and chit, or sing in a series of quick and melodic chatters. The calls of the Bumblebee Hummingbird are an essential part of their foraging behavior, which helps in protecting their food source from other birds.

The calls are used to establish and defend feeding territories and help the bird avoid aggression from other hummingbird species. In conclusion, the Bumblebee Hummingbird has unique adaptations that enable it to exploit specialized habitats and diets.

Its high metabolism rate and internal temperature regulation mechanisms allow it to thrive in high-altitude environments. The bird’s high-pitched, sharp call is a vital component of its vocal behavior and foraging, enabling it to establish and defend feeding territories.

As we continue to face the impacts of climate change, understanding the Bumblebee Hummingbird’s diet and foraging behavior, as well as its vocalization, is critical in devising effective conservation strategies for the species. of knowledge, as the purpose of the article is to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the Bumblebee Hummingbird’s behavior, breeding, demography, and populations.



The Bumblebee Hummingbird has unique locomotion, allowing it to hover in the air and fly backward and forwards with tremendous speed. Their wings can beat up to 80 times per second and can rotate at various angles, making it possible for hummingbirds to fly in any direction with great precision.


The Bumblebee Hummingbird is active for most of the day, spending a considerable portion of their time self-grooming. The bird preens its feathers by rubbing them together, and then the bird distributes the oils and powder from its uropygial gland to wings and feathers.

Besides cleaning the feathers, the bird checks its body for lice or any foreign particles, ensuring optimal health and safety.

Agonistic Behavior

Agonistic behavior in hummingbirds often takes place over feeding territories or during courtship. During territorial disputes, the Bumblebee Hummingbird will make aerial displays to intimidate the opponent.

When males are trying to court a female, they may engage in aggressive displays, including calling, chasing, or physical attacks.

Sexual Behavior

The Bumblebee Hummingbird’s sexual behavior is unique, primarily characterized by lekking in males. Lekking is a type of mating system in which males gather at a specific site and engage in courtship displays to attract females.

During breeding season, male birds gather in large numbers and perform aerial displays, including calling, hovering, and tail flashes.


The Bumblebee Hummingbird breeding season varies depending on the location. They breed primarily in the summer in most regions, but in some areas, breeding can occur year-round.

During breeding season, the male birds establish territories, which they defend vigorously from other males. The Bumblebee Hummingbird is a promiscuous bird, with males pursuing multiple females.

During courtship, males perform elaborate aerial displays, including hovering, synchronized dives, and rapid wing beats, to attract females. Once a female selects a male, they mate, and the female will proceed to build a nest to lay her two eggs.

After hatching, the nestling’s growth is relatively fast-paced, and within 20 days, they have adequate feather development for flight. The young birds remain with the female for a short time, then become independent and start to forage for themselves.

Demography and Populations

The Bumblebee Hummingbird is widely distributed and has overall healthy populations. However, increased human activities, such as logging, agriculture, and urbanization, have resulted in habitat destruction and fragmentation, threatening the bird’s habitat and food sources.

Besides habitat destruction, climate change is also a significant threat to the Bumblebee Hummingbird populations. Shifts in climate can adversely affect the flowering times of plants, causing a lack of adequate food supply for the birds.

Increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, such as hurricanes and fire, can also cause population declines. Efforts are being made to preserve the Bumblebee Hummingbird populations through conservation activities.

These activities include habitat restoration, educational programs, and community outreach. The implementation of such measures can help protect and conserve the Bumblebee Hummingbird, ensuring their continued survival for generations to come.


In conclusion, the Bumblebee Hummingbird has unique behavior, characterized by its hovering locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, and sexual behavior. During breeding season, male birds engage in courtship displays to attract females, and the young chicks develop at a fast pace, becoming independent in a short time.

Though overall, the Bumblebee Hummingbird populations are healthy, human activities such as habitat destruction and climate change pose significant threats to the species. It is vital to implement conservation measures to monitor and preserve Bumblebee

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