Are All These Hummingbirds Another Harbinger of Climate Doom?

Despite their tropical appearance, these hardy little bastards butch out the Northwest winter as far north as British Columbia.

My new hummingbird feeders got no takers all summer. Now, in late November, I’ve suddenly got hummers galore. If Portland is where they migrate for winter, they must spend their summers at the North Pole. Is this yet another harbinger of climate doom? —Nectar Bartender

I’m glad things are finally working out with your feeder, Bartender, though obviously I’m disappointed to learn that Hummers Galore is not, in fact, Pussy Galore’s even more popular big sister. That said, I do have to correct a few of your assumptions.

What you’re seeing is probably the species known as Anna’s hummingbird, and your climate fears may be partially allayed when you learn that, unlike every other hummingbird in North America, this one is nonmigratory. Despite their tropical appearance—the males’ faces shine an iridescent fuchsia in the right light—these hardy little bastards butch out the Northwest winter as far north as British Columbia.

Granted, they’re newcomers. Native to California, the Anna’s hummingbird wasn’t seen in Oregon until the 1940s. However, it wasn’t a changing climate that brought them north, but a revamped menu.

Our native trees (think Doug fir or Sitka spruce), for all their stately majesty, suck at producing the nectar hummingbirds crave. The advance of civilization’s plow, however, brought with it lots of non-native flowering species (as well as a not insignificant number of easy marks like you) upon which the birds could thrive.

Thus, while the earth and its climate are certainly doomed, the presence of hummingbirds in Portland in December is not, in itself, a direct sign of that doom. Enjoy!

Is Dr. Know prescient? In your article about vaccine refusers (Dr. Know, WW, July 28, 2021) you mentioned the “death-dealing Omicron variant.” Well, here we are—it has come to fruition. —Adam O.

Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while, Adam. Obviously, it was just luck (if that’s the word I want) that the only Greek letter I could remember at the time turned out to have legs. Still, I’m not above taking a victory lap around the smoldering ruins of our once-proud civilization, so thanks.

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