Friday, January 27, 2012

Northern Flicker

There is a woodpecker that you are more likely to see on the ground than in a tree.  It is the northern
flicker, an ant-loving woodpecker.  They are one of the larger of the woodpeckers, roughly as large as a blue jay.  Flickers are very distinctively marked and would be difficult to confuse with any other bird.  I'm not sure why, but we often see them around our yard in late winter.  On the day I took these pictures, there were fifteen or twenty of them on the front lawn probing the ground for food and apparently having success since they hung around for quite a while.  Woodpeckers have tongues similar to hummingbirds which can be extended up to five inches in some species such as the flicker.

This is a male.  The female doesn't have the red marking on the nape of the neck or a gray cap on it's
head.  I haven't been able to see it very often, but the underside of it's wings is a beautiful golden
yellow.  Because of that, they are also known as the yellow-shafted race.  There is another race in the western U.S. called the red-shafted race for the red that replaces the yellow of the eastern race. 

Here is a photo of one I caught in flight last winter where you can get some idea of the yellow on the wings.  The white rump on the tail is also distinctive to this woodpecker.

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