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Native to Cuba the Zunzuncito, or Bee Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world. Is it small? Is the Archduke Franz Ferdinand gunshy? It is tiny… at 5cm long it is about the size of a large bee and weighs in at just slightly heavier than a paperclip.
Its nest is absolutely enormous … not really it’s very small, like a boiled hen’s egg chopped in half, just without the goo. It’s own eggs are not surprisingly titchy, the size of a coffee bean, though not quite as useful for staving off hangovers.
The hummingbird beats its wings a remarkable 80 times per second, though when it’s mating it really goes at it hammer and tongs with 200 strokes a second … yes I am still talking about its wings. This pipsqueak, like other hummingbirds, moves its wings in a figure of eight fashion allowing it fly backwards and hover. The only bird to do so… although geese in an eager attempt at landing have been observed flying upside down.
The Bee Hummingbirds heart beats at up to 1,200 times a minute and it can take as many as 500 breaths in that time. Not surprisingly it has the highest metabolic rate of any animal, and for that reason they need to feed all the time. They visit around 1,500 flowers a day for their nectar which they suck up with their straw-like tongue, though they do also take the odd insect. At night-time they enter a state more like hibernation than sleeping to conserve energy, and as soon as they wake they must find food or starve to death. In fact for this reason the Bee Hummingbird is never more than a couple of hours from death. Being a resident of Cuba it appears it has more than one thing in common with Fidel Castro.