DEAR JOAN: I recently saw a column where a man wrote you about a hummingbird trying to revive another and then carry it until the inert one came to and they both flew off.
I have a hummingbird feeder where I work near Puget Sound. Recently it was an unusually cold 24 degrees out, with snow and wind gusts. I saw what I’m pretty sure was a young hummingbird that was feeding, sitting on the rail of the feeder. It would take a long drink then sit. It did this several times, then just sat there.
Suddenly, an adult female came and picked it right up and carried it briefly, but they slowly sank to the ground. When I went to look more closely, I startled them and both flew off.
Angela, Poulsbo, Washington
DEAR ANGELA: I think you saw something pretty special, but I’m not certain you saw what you think you saw.
I don’t think it was a young bird and an adult female. It might still be too cold for hummingbirds to have already nested and fledged the young ones.
The rufous hummingbirds begin arriving back in Washington in late February to start their breeding season. Anna’s hummers, which are permanent residents of Washington, Oregon and California, can start breeding in December, but it depends on the weather and the availability of food.
When the young hummers are old enough to leave the nest, they are about the same size as their parents, so seeing one small and one large hummingbird doesn’t mean it’s a juvenile and an adult. It could be two difference species, or more likely, a female and a male.
I think what you saw was a little hummingbird love. When the female is ready to mate, she sits on a perch and waits for the male to approach her from behind. While the courtship ritual can take a lot of time, with the male making spectacular dives and soaring up into the air time after time, the actual coupling takes about four seconds and it’s over.
The birds might have been a little exuberant, ending up falling or floating to the ground.
I don’t know of any other explanation for what you saw, but I’m always open to hearing from my readers for their opinions and personal observations.
DEAR JOAN: Your recent advice to a reader regarding female dogs perpetuates stereotypes.
It has been my experience over the past 40 years that two female dogs can live together quite happily. We have always lived with two females, who have bonded successfully and become buddies.
I think it does a great disservice to possible adoptees to assert that female dogs should not live together.
Kathleen Desilets, Bend, Oregon
DEAR KATHLEEN: That certainly wasn’t my aim. The woman had a male and female dog, and after the male died, she wondered if getting a second female would cause problems.
The question could very well have been about pairing two males; in my mind it wasn’t about which sex, but that there would be two of the same sex.
That said, there are plenty of instances when same-sex pairings work out just fine.
Hummingbird mystery — what did the observer really see?