The Bumblebee Hummingbird

In the world of Avian there is an order known as Apodiformes and within that order there is a family named Trochiladae. They are the most aerial of all birds. This is to say they continue rapid flight throughout life. They eat, drink, collect nesting material and even copulate in the air. Taxonomy is going through some revision due to modern technology and Bubba said, "the hummingbirds will soon be in their own order but for now the Bumblebee Hummingbird, "B.B. Hummer", are Selasphorus heloisa of Trochilidae in the order of Apodiformes. He asked me to try and not get hung up on taxonomy because "the times they are a changing!"

The B. B. Hummer is new to Belize; and if you believe what all the bird books say, it just isn't here. However, Ambergriseans seem to sight it regularly, north and south. It is the smallest bird in the world and usually mistaken for an insect. The books on Bubba's shelf say it's endemic to Cuba and endangered. In Cuba they call it the "Zunzuncito" or loosely translated, if you can, "little buzz buzz". Why is it on Ambergris? Well, look at a map - the Northeast trade winds would blow it right in. I asked Bubba why it would leave Cuba. (It's always chancy asking Bubba this kind of question.) He said, "100 years ago 90% of Cuba was covered with forest. However, for the raising of cattle and sugar cane this has been reduced to 18% and of course hummingbirds need a very specific flora and fauna. This area had contained the "solandria grand flora" and harbored extremely unique biodiversity. Bubba feels they were forced out by hunger, not communism, like many of Ambergris' other Cuban inhabitants, I think it's mismo. Migration is definite in Northern Hummingbird species but those of the tropics have seasonal movements only related to the abundance and distribution of flowers.

Cuba is proud of its largest and smallest species of flora and fauna and the B. B. Hummer is sometimes mistakenly thought to be its national bird. Not true!

The Cuban Trogon is the national bird because of its red, white and blue colors, like the flag. Nesting habits of the B. B. Hummer are little to unknown but certain assumptions can be made. All hummingbirds lay two whitish eggs as far as it is known and typically the male plays no part in nesting. Nests are often found hanging under banana leaves or coconut fronds. They are small cups of finely woven plant fiber and sometimes contain spider silk, collected by the female, to bond the nest to the leaf.

The Ambergris sightings have all had one common first reaction. They thought it was an insect, possibly the Rhinoceros Beetle.

The B. B. Hummer is colored similar to most hummingbirds, greenish cinnamon with a rufous tail and violet blue highlights. However, iridescent colors are referred to as "glittering" in the accounts, and as they are produced by refracted light rather than pigmentation, often appear blackish unless seen in the "right light".

This fact is, with its small size (two and one half inches), it is easily mistaken for an insect. Bubba had a helpful hint in field identification....find out what kind of flower it likes and watch for something buzzing that has the ability to hover and fly backwards. Good Luck !!

Birds of Ambergris Caye

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