Ever wondered what the smallest birds in the world are?
Whilst we tend to think that bigger is better, for wildlife – and particularly birds – this isn’t necessarily the case. Being small you need fewer resources to survive and have all sorts of options for hiding places to escape from predators. For birds, smaller sizes tend to come with greater agility in the air too.
If you’re into tiny birds, you might be interested in these lists of the world’s smallest animals and the world’s smallest mammals. Or perhaps you’re interested in the other end of the spectrum too, and would like to find out more about the biggest birds in the world?
Below we’ve picked out 10 of the smallest birds in the world. They come from all corners of the globe and are ranked by height (rather than weight, wingspan, or some other measure).
With this context in mind, here’s our pick of the world’s smallest birds:
10. Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)
Average 10 centimeters, 10 grams
The lesser goldfinch is native to North America, the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The tiny bird averages 10 centimeters in size, and is particularly sexually dimorphic, with significant coloration differences between males and females.
It’s a very common bird that’s found in multiple habitats at different elevations and has been observed to be a predominantly monogamous bird.
9. Golden-headed cisticola (Cisticola exiles)
Average 10 centimeters, 8 grams
The golden-headed cisticola is also known as the bright-capped cisticola, and found across South Asia and Australia. It has the nickname the “finest tailor of all birds” as it makes its tidy nest from plants and spider threads
Usually seen around grasslands in humid areas, the golden-headed cisticola is omnivorous, eating everything from insects and small slugs to seeds. On average mature adults grow to 10 centimeters and weigh around 8 grams.
8. Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps)
Average 10 centimeters, 7 grams
The verdin rivals the American bushtit as one of the smallest passerines in North America and is found across Mexico and the southern USA. They nest in shrubs and thorny thickets with few trees, building nests that are spherically inter-connected bulky twigs and branches lined with feathers, grass, and hair.
They are commonly spotted foraging for insects among desert scrub plants.
7. Brown Gerygone (Gerygone mouki)
Average 10 centimeters, 6 grams
Also known as gerygone brown and brown warbler, the gerygone mouki is native to the rainforest areas on the east coast of Australia. It usually lives in small groups of three or four birds that forage together at all heights of the canopy, hunting flying insects amongst the foliage.
6. Pardalote (Pardalotidae)
Average 9.5 centimeters, 6 grams
The pardalote is a particularly attractive Australian bird with bright patterned plumage – and a plump look, unlike most of the other tiny birds on this list, even though they weigh just 6 g. Their small size lets them get into small holes of eucalyptus trees to hunt for lerps and other native larvae.
As with many other animals, the numbers of this stunning bird are in decline due to habitat loss caused by humans for urban development and grazing domestic animals.
5. Simple Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla)
Average 9.3 centimeters, 5.5 grams
The simple firecrest is in the same kinglet family of birds as the goldcrest. It is almost as small, and very similar in appearance to the goldcrest, though has a more yellowish tinge with a whitish fawn stripe above the eye.
Simple firecrests tend to be seen more frequently during autumn and winter when it’s easier to spot them picking off small insects to eat.
4. Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
Average 9 centimeters, 5.7 grams
The goldcrest is the smallest bird in Europe, reaching an average of 9 centimeters in length, and weighing a tiny 6 grams. Its Latin name means prince or little king, and it’s sometimes referred to as the king of the birds in folklore.
They have thin beaks that are ideally suited for picking insects out from between pine needles and are easily recognised by the black and yellow stripe on their heads (which includes an orange center on males). One of their claims to fame is the fact that goldcrests can incubate as many as 12 eggs at one time in their nest – not bad for such a small bird!
3. Weebill (Smicrornis brevirostris)
Average 8 centimeters, 6 grams
Named after their ‘wee’ bill (i.e, tiny!), this species has the body to match, averaging just 8 centimeters in length.
The Weebill is native to Australia’s jungles, forests, and wooded areas, and is the continent’s smallest bird. Favouring eucalyptus-rich areas, they have a diet that’s based on larvae and small insects.
2. Costa’s Hummingbird (Calypte costae)
Average 8 centimeters, 3 grams
The Costa’s hummingbird has perhaps the most spectacular plumage of all birds on this list, with a brilliant swathe of bright purple across its head and neck.
It’s native to the southwestern USA, found in desert habitats where it feeds on nectar and insects. It’s the second smallest hummingbird, and the second smallest bird in the world, measuring only 8 centimeters long.
1. Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae)
Average 5-6 centimeters, 1.7 grams
The title of the world’s smallest bird goes to the bee hummingbird, which can be just 5 cm in length. It’s also the world’s lightest bird at under 2 grams, and has the smallest nest in the world – made from cobwebs and lichen – where it lays eggs the size of peas.
Bee hummingbirds are native to Cuba, where it also goes by the names zunzuncito, elf of the bees, and bird-fly. Their name comes from their behaviour of sucking nectar from flowers from Cuba’s coastal forests, hovering next to flowers whilst beating their wings 200 times per second.
As with so much wildlife today, this world’s smallest bird is suffering from habitat loss, and is now sadly listed as near threatened by IUCN.
And that’s your lot for our pick of the smallest birds in the world. What do you think – did any of these tiny birds surprise you? Or perhaps we’ve left out an obvious pick of a miniature bird species to add to the list.
Please join in and let us know your thoughts, or any experiences you have of tiny birds in the comments section below!