The Top 10 Smallest Birds In North America

Written by Rebecca
Updated: December 30, 2022
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Key Points

  • Some of the smallest birds on this list include the American Goldfinch, the Carolina Chickadee, and the Brown-headed Nuthatch.
  • The smallest bird on this list measures 2.2 inches long and weighs less than a dime.
  • A few birds on this list includes different species of hummingbirds.

Before we can define the smallest birds in North America, we have to understand what that region includes. Although many people think of North America as just the United States and Canada, other areas make up this continent, including Greenland (which is technically a part of the North American continent while geopolitically, it’s a part of a Europe) as well as Mexico and the Caribbean.

Because this area is so large and so full of different species of hummingbirds, there are a lot of contenders for the 10 smallest birds in the region! Many of these birds show as much as a half-inch length variance between specimens, so for this list, we will consider the smallest known size of the bird in length and weight.

#10: American Goldfinch

The American goldfinch averages around five inches in length.

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As the name suggests, the American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is a brightly golden colored bird in the Finch family, found in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, depending on the time of year. They have yellow plumage over most of their bodies, with a black spot that covers much of the front of their head, and black and white striped wings.

Their beaks are a deep yellow-orange. These golden birds range from 4.3-5.5 inches in length and weigh between three-eights and three-quarters of an ounce. They live up to six years in the wild, but often average closer to three years.

These birds are very sociable and often breed in loose colonies. They have a delightful call and song. Their long beaks give them the ability to extract seeds that most animals and birds can’t reach. The American Goldfinch is often associated with celebration, joy, and are connected to light and sanctity.

#9: Carolina Chickadee

The Carolina chickadee averages around five inches in length.

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Measuring only 4.5-5 inches in length and weighing in at around one-third of an ounce is our ninth smallest bird in North America, the Poecile carolinensis or Carolina Chickadee. This black and white-headed bird may be small, but it is considered a very aggressive bird. It has a predominantly white body, with gray wings and bits of gray at the end of its tail. Its diet consists mainly of spiders and insects, so perhaps this accounts for its aggressive nature. Whatever the reason, these birds can live up to 11 years in the wild!

#8: Brown-headed Nuthatch

The brown-headed nuthatch averages around four inches in length.

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The Brown-headed Nuthatch, Sitta pusilla, is a songbird from the southwestern United States. It measures 3.5-4.3 inches long with a weight that varies between just over one-third of an ounce to just under one-half an ounce. Their names stem from the brown spot that covers most of the crowns of their heads. They have a bit of that same color across their chest. Their wings are grayish-blue or gray, mixed with a darker gray, white, and sometimes brown. They live up to 10 years, but their average lifespan in the wild is only two to four years.

#7: Lesser Goldfinch

The lesser goldfinch averages around four inches in length.

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Like its cousin in the number 10 spot of the smallest birds in North America, Spinus psaltria, the Lesser Goldfinch, has bright gold plumage over most of its body. However, instead of the solid black that the American Goldfinch has, the Lesser Goldfinch has gray and white mottled through its black areas and its back is a darker, mottled yellow. Its beak is also pale yellow and shorter. These birds weigh between 0.28-0.41 ounces and are between 3.5-4.7 inches long. These little guys usually live between three to six years, with the oldest known specimen being seven years old.

#6: Ruby-crowned Kinglet

The ruby-crowned kinglet averages around four inches in length.

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Like many of the smallest birds, the Regulus calendula or Ruby-crowned Kinglet has a lot of energy and flicks its wings almost constantly. Yet this little grayish-green kinglet only burns around 10 calories per day! Males have a red crown, which they mostly keep hidden. These birds have gray and white striped wings and round bodies that tend more toward the olive green on the bottom half. Females may lay up to 10 eggs at a time. They measure 3.5-4.3 inches and weigh in between 0.20-0.40 ounces, and they can live up to 5.5 years.

#5: Verdin

The verdin averages around four inches in length.

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Like the kinglet, the smallest Verdins (Auriparus flaviceps) are around 3.5 inches with a maximum length of 4.3 inches, but it gets a higher spot because it only weighs between one fifth and one-third of an ounce, a full 0.10 ounces less than our number five. A Verdin is a type of tit which looks like a Chickadee but is not closely related. It has a bright yellow face, while most of its body is pale silvery white or gray. Its wings are a darker gray, with a red spot at each shoulder. These songbirds typically only live about three years, though the oldest specimen ever recorded was nearly six years old.

#4: American Bushtit

The American bushtit averages around three to four inches in length.

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According to some sources, the American Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) reaches lengths of 2.8 inches up to 4.33 inches, but it can weigh as little as one-tenth of one ounce, with a maximum weight of 0.20 ounces. These round little birds are mostly gray to grayish brown, with some slight darkening toward the top of their bodies. Their beaks and feet are black. They may live as long as nine years in the wild.

#3: Costa’s Hummingbird

The Costa’s hummingbird averages around three inches in length.

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The oldest known Costa’s Hummingbird was nearly nine years old. These tiny birds reach a maximum length of 3.5 inches, but they weigh no more than 0.10 ounces. These birds are quite beautiful, with whitish silver bodies and green under-plumage. The males have vivid iridescent purple feathers all around their faces. They have long thin black beaks, in the shape common to most hummingbirds. The Calypte costae can live up to eight years, though not much is known about their average lifespan. Though these birds are typically found in the southwestern states, they have been spotted as far north as Alaska!

#2: Calliope Hummingbird

The calliope hummingbird averages around three inches in length.

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The Selasphorus calliope or Calliope Hummingbird is a species of hummingbird found across the southwestern United States and much of Mexico. They reach a maximum length between three to 3.5 inches and weigh only one-tenth of an ounce. The coloration between males and females is not very different. These birds are mostly varying shades of iridescent green on their wings and backs, and sometimes the sides of their chests, with white chests and under plumage. The males have bright purple beards under their beaks, which is the primary difference between them, and it can be hard to tell the difference between immature males and females because the males don’t have their purple yet. The oldest known specimen lived to be eight years old.

#1: Bee Hummingbird

The bee hummingbird averages around two inches in length.

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Coming in at number one, the Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) not only tops the list of smallest birds in North America, but it is also the smallest known bird in the world. This tiny hummingbird is only found in Cuba, and it lays its coffee bean-sized eggs in nests that are only roughly an inch across, or about the same size as a United States quarter. The bird itself isn’t much bigger, coming in at an astonishing 2.25 inches, with a weight of under two grams or less than 0.07 ounces. In other words, a U.S. dime weighs more than this bird!

Though very small, the Bee Hummingbird is very beautiful. It has a black head and wings and a white belly, with a blue stripe on either side of its body and a pink stripe down either side of its neck. Their wings can beat an amazing 200 beats per second during mating rituals, and 80 beats per second on a normal day. They live up to 10 years in captivity, and seven in the wild.

List of the Smallest Birds

Here is a summarized list of the smallest birds:

RankBirds
10.American Goldfinch
9.Carolina Chickadee
8.Brown-headed Nuthatch
7.Lesser Goldfinch
6.Ruby-crowned Kinglet
5.Verdin
4.American Bushtit
3.Costa’s Hummingbird
2.Calliope Hummingbird
1.Bee Hummingbird

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The Featured Image

Calliope hummingbird in flight
Calliope hummingbird in flight
© iStock.com/McBenjamen

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About the Author

My name is Rebecca and I've been a Professional Freelancer for almost a decade. I write SEO content and graphic design. When I'm not working, I'm obsessing over cats and pet rats.

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