Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Rare Visitor

Look who dropped by the other day!

This Northern Flicker shows the distinctive black spots on the white breast. The black "moustaches" on the side of the face indicate a male.

The Northern Flicker is one of 7 woodpecker species found in Indiana, and a rare visitor to the back yard. In our area, flickers are yellow-shafted, which means that underwings and tail feathers are yellow, visible from below. This one stayed only a few minutes and was primarily interested in the hanging suet feeders in the walnut tree. This tree is our "woodpecker tree," a favorite of downy, hairy, red-headed, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers all winter. The one Indiana species of woodpecker we've never seen is the yellow-bellied sapsucker, a small woodpecker that really does eat sap.

Flickers, like all woodpeckers, eat insects when they're available, and their favorite food is ants. They will forage on the ground or in trees, and will take berries or seeds when they can't get ants. They are monogamous, nest in cavities, and won't be persuaded to use nest boxes. They often migrate a bit south in the winter, but in Indiana they're present all year round.

When I spotted the flicker in our yard, I made a grab for the camera and hung out the window to catch a shot. My photos aren't really very good and don't do justice to this beautiful bird. I hope he'll come back soon so I can try again.

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