This image shows a handmade miniature, not the world’s smallest bird

A photo showing a tiny bird perched on a person’s index finger was shared at least 46,000 times on social media in various languages. The posts claim that the bird is the world’s smallest, but this is false. The photo shows a miniature made by a Bulgarian artist and the bird she reproduced is a chickadee, which is not the smallest in the world.

“The zunzuncito is the smallest bird in the world. It is also called fly bird, elf or bee bird,” some social media users assure their followers.

Screenshot taken on November 26, 2019 of a Facebook post

One version of this claim was shared 45,000 times, while the same photo circulated in Spanish on Facebook (1,2,3,4,5,6,7) and on Twitter (1,2) with an identical caption.

In order to find out the photo’s origin, AFP Factual (the Spanish version of AFP Fact Check) conducted a reverse image search on Google and the Russian search engine Yandex.

The oldest result found on Google Images is from July 9, 2014, on the Pinterest account Malinik Miniatures, which sells “animals and birds in miniature,” and links to the Facebook page Malinik Miniature Animals. That Facebook page used the photo of the alleged world’s smallest bird as its profile picture on October 18, 2019.

The Pinterest account includes various photos of miniatures shot in the same aesthetic: a hand holds an animal figurine in order to demonstrate its size to scale.

This photo is the one that went viral as a visual representation of the world’s smallest bird. The caption on that page, however, is “Dollhouse Miniature Realistic Chickadee OOAK bird,” with a price: $122.50.

The Facebook page Malinik Miniatures includes an email address and a short biography: “My name is Ina - or Malinik Miniatures. I’m from Bulgaria, Europe and currently live in USA … I work with polymer clay and wire to make the sculpture, and then cover it with feathers or fibers.”

A photo from February 3 shows the creation process for the Chickadee bird.

AFP Factual contacted Ina Gancheva, which is the artist’s full name, via Facebook. “The photo is mine, I made this miniature bird … I saw several people publishing my photos without my authorization and saying that this is the world’s smallest bird,” she told AFP.

In a Facebook post, Gancheva shared one of the publications using her photo with the sarcastic comment, “Oh wow, I didn’t know my bird can fly.”

A Cuban hummingbird

Gancheva’s miniature is not a reproduction of the world’s smallest bird. The chickadee is a bird found across North America, with other species of the same genus, referred to as tits, present in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere and Africa. The black capped chickadee is 13 centimeters long, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Professor Gary Stiles, an ornithologist at the National University of Colombia’s Natural Sciences Institute, told AFP that “the bird in this photo is absolutely not the world’s smallest. The smallest is a  hummingbird native to Cuba that weighs up to two grams as an adult.”

Andrés Cuervo, ornithology curator of the National University of Colombia, also told AFP that the world’s smallest bird is the Cuban hummingbird. “It’s tiny, between five and six centimeters, with a weight between 1.6 and 2.5 grams. They feed on insects and flower nectar.”

A Bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) sucks from a flower at the aviary El Nido, on September 27, 2011, in Ixtapaluca, State of Mexico, near Mexico City. (AFP / Ronaldo Schemidt)

This Cuban hummingbird is known as the zunzuncito, or the bee hummingbird, as some captions sharing the photo of the miniature chickadee state. The bee hummingbird has been on the threatened species list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.