Saturday, October 10, 2020

Northern Flicker

A Northern Flicker sits for a portrait. This bird is a male, as evidenced by the prominent black "mustache" (malar stripe).

I don't get many flickers in the yard, thus I was pleased to look at the backyard feeders the other day and see this handsome animal gorging itself on seeds. Earlier in the year, a female flicker was a regular at the suet feeder. The regular woodpeckers here are Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied - all pretty much daily fixtures. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are consistent in winter, but they forage in the conifers - large spruce and pine - and I've never seen them at the feeders. I've never seen Pileated or Red-headed woodpeckers here in this patch of suburbia, although I know that they are not far off.

The flicker pauses to stretch, revealing its golden underwings. Flickers in western North America are of a different subspecies that was once considered distinct: the Red-shafted Flicker, with bright red underwings and tail shafts. There is a narrow but extensive zone of hybridization where the two subspecies come into contact.
 
Warring male flickers, sparring over a nearby nest cavity and female. The bird in the upper right won. This display was all bluff. I never saw them actually come to blows.

The Northern Flicker is one of North America's most interesting birds, in my opinion. I've written a piece about them, to be published in my Columbus Dispatch newspaper column next Sunday, October 18. I'll share that here after it's published.

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