No pressure: One of four species will soon be selected by the public to become the City of Vancouver’s official permanent bird and avian ambassador to what may be the world’s largest gathering of birders.
The final list of candidates for the job include: Anna’s hummingbird, varied thrush, spotted towhee and northern flicker — all west coast birds that are thought in some way to encapsulate the spirit of Vancouver.
City residents can vote online for their favourite by May 14, more than a year in advance of two simultaneous events, the International Ornithological Congress and International Bird Festival, Aug. 19-26, 2018, which will bring thousands of academics and bird enthusiasts to the city.
“It’s going to be absolutely huge, probably the biggest bird festival ever in the world,” said Rob Butler, chair of Vancouver’s bird advisory committee and the coming bird festival. “The city needs a bird ambassador to lead the city into that.”
Bob Elner, a veteran federal researcher with the Canadian Wildlife Service, is heading the congress.
Butler credited a 2010 story by Vancouver Sun environment reporter Larry Pynn entitled Winged Tsunami, about the annual migration of birds through Metro Vancouver, for spurring the city to better recognize birds.
“That’s really what started all of this,” he said. Then-park board commissioner Loretta Woodcock pushed a motion to declare World Migratory Bird Day in Vancouver. “From that, all this got started.”
Vancouver Bird Week is May 6 to 13, with numerous public events (vancouverbirdweek.ca).
Anna’s hummingbird is something of a recent immigrant, having arrived from warmer climes, and is now a year-round resident thanks to bird feeders. Said Butler: “It is very attractive, lively, feisty. It sounds like a crackling electrical cord.”
The pretty varied thrush is very much a rainforest species. It was also in the running for status as B.C.’s official bird, losing out to the Steller’s jay in 1987.
The spotted towhee is familiar to anyone with a backyard feeder. “It’s one of the first birds people see when they really start bird watching. They say, ‘Hold on, that’s not a robin.’ It’s around the garden, an attractive little bird.”
The northern flicker is a large, striking bird with a powerful call that is known to drum on household metal to proclaim its territory or attract a mate. “It’s sporty looking and widespread,” Butler adds.