City Informer: Why Is a Hummingbird the Official City Bird of Vancouver?

Years after the official decree, it's a question that keeps at least one birdbrain up at night.

It’s so upsetting to still hear talk going on about the “stolen American election.” Because it really distracts from the stolen election I want to talk about: the 2017 vote for Vancouver’s Official City Bird.

I don’t need to tell you that Anna’s hummingbird is the reigning champ. Everyone stops and salutes when we spot her in the garden, and, if you have children, they’re pledging allegiance to her in school. But it still ruffles my feather that she swept the final, permanent City Bird election and will now hold this prestigious position for the rest of time.

In some countries, that is considered a dictatorship. But it’s not even the affront to democracy that necessarily bugs me: it’s that the rightful winner, the crow, was rudely disqualified from the 2017 race and now will never have the chance to fly to Official City Bird heights.

Look, I’m not saying that Anna’s hummingbird is doing a bad job with her official duties. In her role as an ambassador spokesbird, she’s been tasked with “building awareness of birds” and “inspiring artists,” and if the number of stained-glass hummingbird windchimes available for sale during the annual Eastside Culture Crawl is any indication, she’s crushing it. But she’s just not a bird of the people the way the crow is. She’s not patrolling the streets, mixing and mingling with the constituents. No one has ever written a hilarious news story about a hummingbird stealing evidence from a crime scene. Sure, crows dive bomb and steal and poop so profusely outside of the Vanmag office that a team in literal hazmat suits comes every morning to spray things down… but I personally want a bird who’s real. A bird who’s lived. A bird who thinks blonde people are trying to steal its eggs. A bird who has made mistakes but is ready to soar above it all. What I’m trying to say is: the crow is Bernie Sanders.

(Illustration: Byron Eggenschwiler)


The original City Bird program was an annual designation. There was rabid campaigning, though tragically no swimwear portion of the competition. The crow was the 2014 honouree, followed by the chickadee (2015) and the peregrine falcon (2016). But then those tight term limits made it difficult for everyone to keep up. (The official concern was that businesses couldn’t really take advantage of the city bird in their marketing because of the constant turnover, but I suspect people just got overwhelmed by the never- ending chants of “One More Year!” at the constant pro-chickadee  rallies outside City Hall.) The powers that be—city councillors who were tired of being bossed around by bird nerds—decided it was time to just pick one and move on. Unlike the Vancouver mayoral election, though, which welcomes any adult citizen regardless of experience or creed or interest in wearing a shirt, there were strict rules about who could run for Bird King. One of those rules? No previous City Bird winners allowed. 

Other stipulations: nominees couldn’t be an official bird elsewhere, nor commonly found in areas outside the Pacific Northwest. Any birds that were viewed negatively by cultural groups would be disqualified as well (looks like your rep finally caught up with you, owls). As a result, it was a four-party race in ’17: the iridescent Anna’s hummingbird, the varied thrush, the northern flicker and the spotted towhee. If the pigeons or seagulls ran as independents, they certainly didn’t get invited to the televised debates.

Unsurprisingly, Anna’s hummingbird swept the election, taking nearly half of the vote. That’s pretty privilege, for you. But while she rules with an iron wing, we in the #TeamCrow camp will continue to cause a flap for the issues that matter—cawing loud, cawing proud and making our mark where it counts (the sidewalk in front of the Vanmag office).