Avian Expert Articles

Smallest of the Small: The Buff-Faced Pygmy Parrot

pygmy parrot
Buff-faced pygmy parrot photo by Gabbro/Alamy

The hummingbird is a small bird, the smallest in the bird world. Contrast that with the usual size of an exotic bird and the difference is remarkable to say the least. Any investigation will promptly confirm the comparable sizes of the two. Most of us who visit any pet store with regularity can verify that the budgie, more commonly known as a parakeet, is an easily managed small bird from the parrot family. But amazingly, there is actually a parrot that is near the size of a hummingbird. This parrot is known as the buff-faced pygmy parrot.

The buff-faced pygmy parrot is approximately 3 inches long. With the more familiar parakeet (budgie) at around 7 inches long, this particular pygmy parrot is less than a parakeet’s average size by more than double. The pygmy parrot is found in the moist forested lowlands of New Guinea, located off the NE tip of Australia. A little farther North East is a large island known as New Britain that is also home to this small parrot. They are found nowhere else. These small but completely adorable birds are largely green but with some yellow in their plumage.  The bird gets its name from the buff-coloration in the face and crown regions. Male and female parrots of this species differ only by the female possessing a more pale buff coloration. Amusingly, this bird is classified as Micropsitta, while its species name is Pusio, which translated from the Latin, means “little boy”. They weigh no more than a half-ounce.

Fortunately, these birds are listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) with a Conservation Status of Least Concern.  They are plentiful in their areas of the two islands they call home. Captivity does not seem to work well for pygmy parrots. Interestingly, they make for poor pets largely due to their unusual diet of fungi and lichens found in bark. They also feed on seeds, fruits, and insects. Past attempts to domesticate them have resulted in early deaths of the birds. Breeding efforts have met with equal results. The lifespan of the bird has not been determined. The buff-faced pygmy parrot is a fast bird and enjoys hanging out with others of their kind.

Getting back to the smaller hummingbird, the smallest of those is called the bee hummingbird. They are found only in Cuba and measure in at approximately two and a quarter-inch in height, with a weight of only 0.056 ounces. This bird is the reigning champ in the uncontestable Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s smallest bird in existence. According to the Records book, this weight is considered the lowest for any warm-blooded animal.

It surely is a fascinating world we all live in.

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