Sunday, October 6, 2013

Northern Flicker, Havenwoods State Forest

                                  Facing east with the wind at his back this Northern Flicker is watching the sunrise. 

He chose this spot to warm up. The temperature was in the mid-fifties...barely up from  the overnight low.   The mid-fifties are not a problem for the Northern Flicker.  He could remain in Wisconsin all winter long if he chose.  

He looked off balanced though and bothered by the stiff wind that ruffled his feathers.  He twisted, turned and repositioned himself to maximize the sunlight while avoiding the chilly wind on his neck. Eventually, he just gave up and sought out a cozier spot.

A female Northern Flicker was nearby, too.  She was a half-mile away, across a treeless expanse, resting on a wire.  I couldn’t say whether these two enjoyed a relationship or not, but a half-mile is only seconds away for a flicker. 

Northern Flickers are in the woodpecker family. Males and females  look alike with the exception of a ‘moustache’…black malar…a stripe below the eye, which only the males sport. This is an eastern variant of the Northern Flicker called, yellow-shafted.

There is also a western variety of the Northern Flicker…red-shafted.  The two birds look similar, but are easily recognized as different, if you see them up-close.  

The western Northern Flicker displays red under its wings and tail where the eastern Northern Flicker shows yellow.  This Northern Flicker flashed her colors at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, near Roswell, New Mexico last March. Launching from a snag, she headed towards the setting sun. 

Northern Flickers eat ants and beetles  by foraging on the ground,  unlike other woodpecker species that search through trees for their prey.  You're likely to find those woodpeckers on vertical limbs bracing themselves with their stiff tails.  To the contrary, Northern Flickers prefer horizontal limbs to perch upon. 

Elegantly feathered in buff colors accented with dots, crescent and even Valentine hearts the Northern Flicker would be a nice find on your walk in the woods.  Most encounters will be one-way enjoyable though.  The Northern Flicker is very skittish and will disappear in a flash, if he spots you first. The flash being the bright white rump he shows you as he darts away. 

Invite a Northern Flicker to your window this winter.  It only takes some nut-filled suet and a little patience.  It’ll be good for both of you.


Reminder: Click on any picture to enlarge.

Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Credit: Sibley Guide to Birds