What’s a zunzún?
Meet Suny, our logo for Zunzun Education Services. She is a zunzún, the world’s smallest bird.
The bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) is a threatened species unique to Cuba where it is called zunzún or zunzuncito. Weighing between 1.6 and 1.8 grams (less than a dime), it is 5 cm (2 in) from beak to tail. It’s the smallest warm-blooded vertebrate, and lays the tiniest bird egg. The female is slightly larger than the male. They are so petite they are sometimes mistaken for bumblebees.
When flying its wings flap 80 times per second, and when mating, they beat up to 200 times a second! Its heart rate is the second fastest of all animals. Zunzúns also have the fewest feathers any bird: about one-thousand.
It is swift and can fly up, down, forward and backwards, and hover. They can’t walk and only use their feet for perching.
Their daytime body temperature is 40°C (104°F), the highest of all birds. At night, it drops down to 19°C (66°F) to conserve energy. Zunzúns eat half their weight in food and drink eight times their weight in water daily. Its diet consists mainly of nectar and the occasional insect.
It extracts nectar by moving its tongue rapidly in and out of flowers – up to 13 times per second. In the process of feeding, the bird picks up pollen on its bill and head. When flying from flower to flower, it transfers the pollen, playing an important role in plant reproduction. In the space of a day the bee hummingbird will visit 1,500 flowers.
Using bits of cobwebs, bark, and lichen, the female builds a cup-shaped nest 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter. She lines it with soft plant fibers. She lays just two eggs no bigger than peas. She alone incubates the eggs and raises the young. Chicks hatch between May and June.