Saturday, July 23, 2011

Red-shafted Flicker comes a-callin'

Photos by D. Grant Haynes

During each of the three summers I have spent in Wilbur, Washington, I have been aware of a family of Red-shafted Flickers (Colaptes auratus) that nest somewhere near my abode. By midsummer, they come to my backyard with whatever offspring they've managed to rear and teach the young the art of finding and eating the ants that are plentiful here by late July.

This afternoon, as an afterthought after 6 p.m., I sat down with my camera, not expecting to see anything remarkable so late in the day. But three Red-shafted Flickers were soon close to me in the conifers. Two decided discretion to be the better part of valor and left. But a third came closer, perching on a nearby post long enough for me to get some exceptional photos.

The red "mustache", ornithologists call it, indicates a male flicker. And my impression is the bird is probably a young male. His body is not quite as plump and smoothly contoured as an adult male, the body of which can be 12-14 inches long. Also, and sadly, young birds are often more curious and less cautious about potential dangers than are their parents. I believe the above Red-shafted Flicker represents the only fledgling reared to near maturity by our flicker family this year. Normally, one would expect to see three, perhaps.

In any case, this dear and trusting bird allowed me to get 10-12 shots before departing to join his fellows at a safer distance.

Red-shafted Flickers, members of the woodpecker family, have a wingspan of from 16-20 inches. They stay in Eastern Washington throughout the winter. My hat is off to them for that feat alone! -- D. Grant Haynes