August 29, 2014
A Cuban Quest for the “Little ZunZun”
- as seen by -Stephen Sautner
While traveling through southern Cuba with Wildlife Conservation Society ornithologist Steve Zack and our Cuban partners, we stopped at a hedgerow between two farms thick with mariposa – Cuba’s state flower. We had heard that there had been recent sightings here of the “zunzuncito.” Otherwise known as the bee hummingbird, it is the world’s smallest bird species and found only on the island of Cuba. After much peering and neck-craning we saw it – a tiny iridescent flash darting and flitting from flower to flower. It looked impossibly small, no bigger that a champagne cork with little blurred wings. Finally, it alighted on a branch and allowed us a long and luxurious look. It perched for several minutes, a globule of mariposa nectar hanging from its bill. Zack stood in awe remarking that he had studied ostriches in Africa – the world’s largest bird – and was now looking at evolution’s most diminutive avian handiwork.
He was deeply moved – as was I.