by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"Color is Significant to a Flicker"

Yellow-shafted Flicker

flicker       The Northern Flickers come in two colors. 1. The Yellow-shafted Flicker which is common to the Eastern United States, with beautiful yellow feathers on a background of tan, gray, and black markings, and 2. The Red-shafted Flicker which is common to the Western United States, with its bright red feathers on a background of tan, gray, and black markings. The color is noticeable when the wings are spread (see drawing). When either Flicker is perching, about the only difference is the color of the male's mustache. One has a black and one has a red. So if you get mixed up as to where you might be in the US, Just look for a Northern Flicker and watch it fly and show its color.

       The Northern Flicker has a slightly curved bill, and spends more time on the ground than in trees, because favorite foods are ants, caterpillars, beetles, termites, and aphids. Ants make up almost half of the Flickers diet. They use the acid from the ants to assist in preening their feathers, helping to keep them free of parasites. All Flickers are great drummers. Trees are good to drum on, but metal objects are better because they are louder. The drumming sound helps Flickers define their territories. A good drummer can be heard a half mile away. They have many names such as . . . Yellowhammer, Harry-wicket, Heigh-ho, Wake-up, Wick-up, Yarrup, Gaffer  Woodpecker, and Gawker Bird. I call them my Favorite Bird.

       Yes, it’s possible to see both Woodpeckers in southern Utah; it would be rare, but possible, because birds are known to cross boundaries. The first, and only Yellow-shafted Flicker I’ve seen, was at the Tonaquint Park. Many other birds love the Northern Flickers, as Flickers are constantly excavating cavities for nesting. Each time they go to a new nest site, other birds welcome their efforts and use the abandoned nest site for their own nest. The ki-ki-ki-ki-ki sound is the call of the Northern Flicker, and there is probably one right outside your window. Let me know if you find either color.

       Brenda Rusnell is the artist of the Yellow-shafted Woodpecker. Only when the wings are spread will you get to see this beautiful coloring. If you have questions about birds or upcoming Red Cliffs Audubon monthly activities call 435 673-0996.

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