Itty bitty birds, so small you almost think you imagined them when they flit by, rarely get noticed. The birds that get all the attention are usually the flashiest, like the birds of paradise. The toughest ones, like hawks and eagles, also hog the spotlight. Tiny species deserve a little attention too. Meet some of the world’s smallest bird species.
1. Verdin Red-Cheeked Cordon-Bleu
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 weigh 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.
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 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 a while.
3. Lesser Goldfinch
The lesser goldfinch is the smallest North American finch of the Spinus genus. It may very well be the smallest true finch in the entire world, growing to an average of just 3.5 to 4.7 inches in length. 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 minuscule. It weighs around 0.28 to 0.41 ounces.
It eats seeds and grains from bird feeders, fields, budding tree tops, and open-area brush. It likes mountain canyons and desert oases, though it can also be found in urban settings.1
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 to 3.7 inches in length and weighs a minuscule 0.16 to 0.25 ounces. It eats spiders, moth eggs, and other tiny sources of food that it picks out from between pine needles with a specialized narrow beak.2
The species may be small, but it is mighty and doesn’t mess around when it comes to raising young. As many as a dozen eggs incubate at once, and sometimes a female will have two broods a season.
5. Bee Hummingbird
The goldcrest may be the smallest bird in Europe, but the smallest bird in the world is the bee hummingbird. It is only 2 to 2.4 inches long (barely more substantial than a bee, hence its name) and weighs 0.056 to 0.071 ounces. That’s less than the weight of a single penny. They make nests the size of quarters out of cobwebs and lichen where they incubate eggs the size of peas.
The bee hummingbird is native to Cuba and is 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 transition to farmland. Its wings can beat 80 times per second, but when it’s engaged in a courtship flight, that increases to 200 beats per second!3
6. Willow Tit
Despite its small size, the willow tit likes cold weather. Found in subarctic Europe and northern Asia, the willow tit is a tiny 4.5 inches long on average and weighs 0.31 to 0.38 ounces—making it about the same size as its neighbor, the marsh tit. They look almost exactly alike as well. They do, however, have very different vocalizations.
The willow tit mostly eats insect, but sometimes it chows down on berries and seeds if food is scarce in winter. It uses its bill to excavate holes for nesting in decaying wood, which is unusual for the members of the tit family.4
7. Spotted Pardalote
This species is tiny but flashy, with plumage of amazing colors and patterns. Found in eastern and southern Australia in eucalyptus forests, it is one of the continent’s smallest bird species at only 3.1 to 3.9 inches in length. The diminutive size helps in their preferred nesting spots: small tunnels that are dug into the soil of creek banks, railways embankments, old rabbit burrows, even potted plants.5
Sadly, this beautiful bird species is facing a decline due to the loss of its preferred forest habitat for human uses such as sheep-grazing or urban development.
This species has a wee bill (the source of its name) and a tiny body to match. The weebill only grows to be about 3 to 3.5 inches long, and it beats out the spotted pardalote as Australia’s smallest bird species. These petite birds travel in small flocks and live in almost any wooded area, though they love eucalyptus forests the most.
9. Costa’s Hummingbird
The Costa’s hummingbird is native to North America’s Southwest and flourishes in the desert setting, where it drinks nectar from plants such as chuparosa and ocotillo. It is one of the smaller hummingbird species at 3 to 3.5 inches long and 0.1 ounces. The male has a brilliant purple plumage across its head. When it dives, it emits a high-pitched whistle.6