Bee Hummingbird

I recently returned from The Birds in Flight Photography contest in Cuba. After visiting last year to explore the vegetation, I left wanting to see more of this amazing island. Most of my time on this trip was spent on the Zapata Peninsula, the largest protected area in the Caribbean with 2000 square miles of swamp and forest, most set aside in 2001 as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.

Though I saw dozens of new birds, my favorite was the bee hummingbird. As the name suggests, this tiny bird is easily confused with its namesake bee, being around 2 inches long, and weighing about the same as a dime. They are the smallest birds in the world, but certainly make up for their tiny size with their amazing energy and enthusiasm. Because of their incredibly high metabolism, they may visit as many as 1500 flowers in a day. They spend 15% of their time eating, consuming as much as half their body mass in food and 8 times their body mass in water every day. Inspired by them I tried piling my plate higher with food every night, but never came close to eating half my weight!
They spend more of their lives in flight than any other bird, and can fly 25 to 30 miles an hour. They usually beat their wings around 80 times a second, but in courtship displays can go as fast as 200. To avoid blur I shot this photo at 1/2000 of a second, capturing details that were impossible for me to see. Though they may be the smallest birds, they certainly don’t skimp on beauty or personality. I felt privileged to share even for a short time the startling pace and delicate beauty of these diminutive birds.