Vancouver elects Anna’s hummingbird as official city bird

Reimer: Bird campaign ‘awakens in us this concept of re-wilding’

Anna’s hummingbird is the official bird of Vancouver after the sprightly winged creature won nearly half the vote following a three-week campaign.

Taking 3,450 ballots, Anna’s hummingbird won 42 per cent of polls, beating the Northern flicker with 32 per cent, the varied thrush with 15 per cent, and finally the spotted towhee with 11 per cent support.

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Anna’s hummingbird is a legacy of the Vancouver Bird Strategy, first launched in 2015 to draw attention to the conditions and habitats native birds need to thrive in an urbanized environment.

The Anna’s hummingbird becomes the city’s official and permanent winged mascot, a fixture that will allow artists and organizations to adopt it as long-term branding since it won’t change within a year’s time.

Although the bird popularity contest of 2017 was a tongue-in-cheek campaign, the mission of the city’s bird strategy is more serious, said city councillor Andrea Reimer.

“All birds are indicators of ecological health,” she said, elaborating on the metaphor of putting a canary in a coal mine. “You could put the name of any bird in that sentence and you would have an appropriate indication for the health of an ecosystem.”

bird strategy official nature
The other candidates for Vancouver's official bird, from left: the spotted towhee, varied thrush, and Northern flicker. Photos Liron Gertsman

Even in an urban environment such as Vancouver, the presence of birds can indicate environmental health and a habitat “ideally operating at its highest ecological level, meaning the air is clean, the water is fresh and the toxic pollution is low,” said Reimer.

The health and happiness of birds – and other potential pollinators such as bees – is not circumstantial.

“The kinds of habitat birds like happen to be the kinds of habitat we also like to live and recreate in, too,” she said, pointing to a mutual love for water features and grassy areas with diverse plants.

“So when we’re talking about birds, the election for an official bird is a much more exciting way to get people engaged and really thinking.”

Anna’s hummingbird is a speedy and beautiful creature, something that reflects Vancouver’s nature, said Reimer, who had backed the failed campaign of the Northern flicker. She also said the democratic exercise was a valuable way to engage numerous residents, not just citizens and permanent residents.

Birds and, for that matter, all kinds of wild creatures that survive in the city, “awaken in us this concept of re-wilding” and asks us to examine our connection to nature and what features we can include in a fabricated landscape of glass and concrete to maintain a healthy habitat for animals, including humans.

Twitter: @MHStewart

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