Bee Hummingbird Mellisuga helenae


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Near Threatened because it has a moderately small population that is declining moderately rapidly as a result of forest loss and degradation.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but this species is described as 'uncommon' (Stotz et al. 1996).

Trend justification
There are no data on population trends; however, the species is suspected to be declining at a slow to moderate rate, as a result of forest degradation and destruction.

Distribution and population

Mellisuga helenae is endemic to Cuba, with a patchy distribution including Habana, Sierra de Anafe, Guanahacabibes Peninsula, Zapata Swamp, Jucaro, Moa, Cuchillas del Toa, Sierra Cristal, Mayarí and the coast of Guantánamo (Raffaele et al. 1998, Garrido and Kirkconnell 2000) and formerly Isla de la Juventud. Although previously common and widespread, it is now rare and localised (Raffaele et al. 1998).


It is found primarily in dense forests and edge of woodlands with plenty of bushes (Raffaele et al. 1998, Garrido and Kirkconnell 2000). It feeds on relatively small specialized flowers (Dalsgaard et al. 2012). Nesting takes place between April and June (Garrido and Kirkconnell 2000).


The historic decline is principally the result of habitat modification and destruction (Raffaele et al. 1998). Much of Cuba's natural vegetation has been converted to cultivation and pasture for cattle, with only 15-20% of land remaining in its natural state (Perera and Rosabal 1986). The recent expansion of cacao, coffee and tobacco production poses a further serious threat (Dinerstein et al. 1995).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Enforce the protection afforded to the species by protected areas. Discourage further clearance of forest for agriculture, using the species as a figurehead. Monitor key populations.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Mahood, S., Sharpe, C J & Wheatley, H.

Dalsgaard, B.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Mellisuga helenae. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/10/2021.