NOTE: This column originally identified the hummer as a ruby-throated, which is not known in these parts. I’ve corrected it to the proper identification, which likely is the Anna’s, about the only hummingbird around at this time of the year. Sorry for the confusion.
DEAR JOAN: Every now and then for the past few weeks, we see this little bird flying from side to side, back and forth and back and forth in front of this mirror. She is out there for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, looking at her image and frequently pecking it.
Then, occasionally, we see her perched quietly, as though she has made friends with her image. I assumed she was smart enough to figure this out, but guess not. I think her red neck makes her female.
Dick Gaskill, Los Gatos
DEAR DICK: I think your visitor likely is an Anna’s hummingbird, but regardless, that red neck makes it a he, not a she.
The plumage of most females birds are dull and understated. That’s because they take care of the nest-building, egg-laying and child-rearing duties. If they were as brilliantly colored as the males, they’d attract a lot of unwanted attention, putting their nest, eggs and babies in danger from predators.
Birds are far cleverer than we perhaps give them credit for, so we can forgive their lack of vanity when it comes to mirrors. When birds see their reflection, they think they are seeing another bird, not themselves. There are very few wild animals that make the connection that they are looking at themselves.
As it is not mating season, the bird is not being aggressive in defending his territory. He might wish the other bird would go away, but he’s not attacking the image as he would if he thought the bird was competition for a female.
That could all change in the spring, when most male hummers get extremely territorial. For that reason, or if the bird starts acting more aggressively, you might want to remove the mirror. The bird could injure itself.
DEAR JOAN: We are facing a new dog problem — customers who shop indoors with dogs. Not the guide dog variety — it is mostly terrier-sized dogs, and they can present a tripping and falling problem.
The other day, while shopping in a well-known food chain, I watched a shopper looking at items on one side of the aisle, while her pet — with leash extended — was sniffing goods on the opposite side. The leash extended over the aisle, blocking traffic.
Some public markets have solved that problem by having a secured place for customers to park their pets. Because shopping with pets is a growing trend, steps must be taken to manage the situation.
Based on my experience recently, department stores, food chains, and other stores appear they are not fully aware of the potentially hazardous situations on their premises posing serious safety and health issues.
Eugenia Bailey, Kensington
DEAR EUGENIA: Oh, I think they’re aware, but they aren’t doing a good job of policing the customers. With few exceptions — police dogs and service dogs — the Food and Drug Administration bars all animals from grocery stores. If you see a customer with a pet in tow, report them to the manager.
In addition to the tripping issue, many people have allergies to pets.
As much as I love my little dog, I don’t bring him to places where he’s not allowed.