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9 of the world’s smallest birds

goldcrest

The goldcrest is the smallest European bird with a wingspan of only 5-6 inches. Yet it still isn’t the smallest bird out there. (Photo: Francis C. Franklin/Wikipedia)

The birds that get all the attention are usually the flashiest, like the birds of paradise,or the toughest, like hawks and eagles. And owls seem to be a universal favorite. But what about the itty bitty birds, so small you almost think you imagined them when they flit by? These tiny species deserve a little attention too. Meet some of the world’s smallest bird species!

Red-cheeked cordon-bleu

red-cheeked cordon-bleu

Photo: Dave Montreuil/Shutterstock

This colorful bird is a species of African finch with sky blue feathers and males have a spot of red on their cheeks that make them look like they are perpetually blushing. Individuals only grow to be about five inches in length, and weighs only about .35 ounces on average. That’s roughly the weight of just three pennies! This species can be found in the wild in central and eastern Africa but is also one of the most popular exotic finch species in the pet trade.

Verdin

verdin bird

Photo: John L. Absher/Shutterstock

With the verdin, we move from blue to yellow, and from Africa to the southwest United States and Mexico. This small bird is a species of penduline tit, and is only about 4.5 inches long when fully grown. It is second only to the 4.3-inch long American bushtit as the smallest of the passerines on the continent. The verdin can be spotted foraging insects among desert scrub plants, or snagging a little dried sugar from hummingbird feeders every once in awhile.

Lesser goldfinch

lesser goldfinch

Photo: Steve Byland/Shutterstock

The lesser goldfinch is the smallest North American finch of the Spinus genus, and it may very well be the smallest true finch in the entire world, growing to just 3.5 to 4.7 inches in length on average. The Andean siskin may beat it by a feather for the title, though, as it comes in at an average of 3.7 to 4.3 inches in length. Still, the goldfinch is truly miniscule. It weighs only around 0.28 to 0.41 ounces.

Goldcrest

goldcrest

Photo: OiseauxvendeeWikipedia

Who says you have to be big to be king? The goldcrest’s scientific name is Regulus regulus, and regulus means“prince, little king”. This species is in the kinglet family, and is the smallest of all the birds in Europe. It measures only about 3.3–3.7 inches in length, and weights a miniscule 0.16–0.25 ounces. The species may be small but it is mighty and doesn’t mess around when it comes to raising young. As many as 10-12 eggs will be incubated at once, and sometimes a female will have two broods a season! Populating the kingdom is clearly a priority for this little bird.  

goldcrest

Photo: Mark Medcalf/Shutterstock

Bee Hummingbird

bee hummingbird

Photo: 44kmos/Shutterstock

The goldcrest may be the smallest bird in Europe but the smallest bird in the world is the bee hummingbird. It is only 2-2.4 inches long (barely larger than a bee, hence its name) and weights a light 0.056–0.071 ounces. That’s less than the weight of a single penny. They make nests of cobwebs and lichen where they incubate eggs no bigger than peas. The bee hummingbird is native to Cuba and is only rarely spotted on other nearby islands. Though it is a tiny miracle among birds, it is listed as near threatened due to habitat loss as forests are converted to farmland. The species is in need of conservation efforts to improve population numbers.

Willow tit

willow tit

Photo: Francis C. Franklin/Wikipedia

Despite it’s small size, the willow tit likes cold weather. It is found in sub-arctic Europe and northern Asia. It is a diminutive 4.5 inches long on average, and a weight of 0.31-0.38 ounces, which is about the same size as its neighbor the marsh tit. In fact, they look almost exactly alike as well. However, as soon as they open their mouths, a birder can tell them apart as the two have very different vocalizations.

Spotted pardalote

spotted pardalote

Photo: JJ Harrison/Wikipedia

This species is small but flashy, with plumage of amazing colors and patterns. The white spots can be somewhat to credit for its nickname, the diamondbird. Found in eastern and southern Australia in eucalyptus forests, it is one of the continent’s smallest bird species at only 3.1-3.9 inches in length. Sadly, this beautiful bird species is facing a decline due to habitat loss to clearing of it’s preferred forest habitat for human uses such as sheep-grazing or urban development.

Weebill

weebill

Photo: Tom Tarrant/Wikipedia

This species has a wee bill (which is the source of it’s name) and a wee body to match! The weebill only grows to be about 3-3.5 inches long, and it beats out the spotted pardalote as Australia’s smallest bird species. This small bird species travels in small flocks and lives in most any wooded area, though they love eucalyptus forests the most.

Costa’s hummingbird

costas hummingbird

Photo: Alan D. Wilson/Wikipedia

We couldn’t end this without taking another look at adorably tiny hummingbirds. The Costa’s hummingbird is native to North America’s southwest and it flourishes in the desert setting. It grows to only 3-3.5 inches long, weighs only 0.1 ounces on average, and is one of the smaller hummingbird species. The male has a brilliant purple plumage across its head, and is a flashy little jewel among all the tan and beige of the desert.

Continue reading 9 of the world’s smallest birds

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How to get birds to eat out of your hand

With the proper preparation, you can have little chickadees snacking away in the palm of your hand.

Photo: Lighttraveler/Shutterstock

Watching birds flutter to and from your feeder can be a rewarding experience, but what if you could get those cuties to eat out of your hand? It is possible, with plenty of patience.
Trying to hand-feed birds can be a fun challenge, but like any wild animal, you will have to gain birds’ trust first.
For starters, it helps to have a yard that is attractive to birds: free of roaming pets, and with plenty ofplaces to perch. Take notes on when birds come to the feeder, and then start getting them used to your presence.
It may be a good idea to sit or stand (still!) several feet away from the feeder over the course of a few days — gradually getting closer and closer. The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests talking softly to ensure that the birds can get used to your voice.
In addition, topping off the feeders at the same time every day will teach the birds to expect your presence and associate it with delicious rewards. Birdwatching.com suggests adding some special treats, like chopped pecans, to the feeders if you want to seem all the more appealing.
You will know when the birds have accepted you. They will no longer hide in the trees and shrubs; instead, they’ll excitedly hop to the feeders and they won’t be scared off as easily if you make a little noise. Once they eat from the feeder when you are standing right next to it, try holding your hand out, palm up, on or right beside the feeder. The birds will eventually eat near your hand.
On a day when the feeder is getting low or is completely empty (or you can even take the feed out temporarily), place nuts and seeds in the palm of your hand and wait patiently for a taker. Once a bird lands on your hand, stay still and absolutely quiet. It may be hard, but try not to swallow — the bird may see that as a sign that you want a tweeting snack of your own!
For your first try at hand-feeding, be sure to choose the birds’ favorite seeds — they won’t go to your hand for just any snack. Of the many frequenters of North American backyards, chickadees, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers and titmice have all been known to cozy up to humans for a handful of treats.
ChickadeesBlack-capped chickadee
These chatty birds are perhaps the friendliest of the backyard varieties. With tiny bodies and big attitudes, chickadees don’t usually seem intimidated by humans. They are curious and plentiful. Their call sounds much like their name, chick-a-dee.
Their favorite foods: suet, sunflower, peanuts
NuthatchesWhite-breasted nuthatch
Only a squeak and a hop away, nuthatches are never far from the feeder. You will see these birds climbing headfirst all along the tree trunks (you know, those upside-down birds); it’s what makes them unique — along with their call that sounds a bit like your dog’s chew toy.
Their favorite foods: sunflower, peanuts, suet, peanut butter
Downy woodpeckersDowny woodpecker
While these birds can be a bit flighty, they are significantly less so than their woodpecker cousins. Where there are chickadees and nuthatches, there are usually these speckled beauties. They typically announce their presence either with an obvious swoop toward the feeder or with tap-tapping on a nearby tree.
Their favorite foods: suet, black oil sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts, peanut butter
TitmiceTufted titmouse
Titmice, like this tufted titmouse pictured, are curious and almost always seem to be in the mood for a snack. You may have heard their high-pitched peter-peter-peter call in your own backyard.
Their favorite foods: sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts (and pretty much any other seed)
A note about hummingbirdsHummingbird
Yep, these tiny, fluttering birds can also be hand-fed. Like with the other birds, consistency is key, but feeding them works just a bit differently.
About.com recommends holding one of the feeders(and it helps if it is the only available feeder) in your hand — and even providing your finger as a little perch. You can even fill a tiny container and hold it in the palm of your hand to try to get a closer experience. Remember: hummingbirds love the color red, so the more on or around you, the better.
For help identifying the other birds in your backyard, including what they like to eat and how friendly they are, visit Cornell’s bird guide on AllAboutBirds.org.
A few important notes: If you choose to make this a family activity, be wary of letting young ones try their hand at feeding birds; a fidgety toddler will have little success gaining the trust of a bird. Of course, keep cleanliness in mind: always wash your hands before and after you handle wild birds. And once you begin hand-feeding birds, be sure to act gently if you want them to come back. Make sure that they have the freedom to come and go as they please — and do not try to confine them.

 

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