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Posts Tagged ‘Colaptes auratus’

I do not know much about fashion, but I am pretty sure that I could not pull off wearing an outfit that combined stripes and dots. Somehow, though, the combination works well for this male Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) that I spotted yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  This Northern Flicker goes even further by adding a bright red crescent across the back of his head.

Unlike most other woodpeckers that are content to wear black and white and maybe a little bit of red, this Northern Flicker comes across as a bold, colorful, and stylish. I wonder why we don’t have similarly-colored penguins.

 

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most woodpeckers have simple patterns of red, black, and white feathers and it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart. The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) outdoes them all with a dazzling combination of colors and patterns—they are pretty easy to identify.

The sky was overcast yesterday morning when I went exploring at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I had to play around with my camera exposures and as a result the background turned almost pure white when I photographed this male Northern Flicker that had light coming from behind him. I like the effect in this case because it helps viewers to focus on the details of the beautiful bird, including the wonderful yellow feathers that you can see in the final photo. In case you are curious, I can tell that the flicker is a male because of the black “mustache” that females do not have.

There are two distinct subspecies of flickers. The ones that we have in the North and East have a little red crescent on the back of its neck, yellow underwings, and, in the case of males, a black mustache. The western flickers have no red crescent, have red underwings, and, in the case of males, a red mustache.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus) have very distinctive patterns and colors, but in the early morning light this one blended in well with the bark and branches of the tree on which it was perched earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I was able to detect the bird’s presence only when it moved its head a bit from side to side. Some of my friends are able to spot birds in the trees on the basis of their shapes, but for the most part I need some movement to be able to do so.

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Unlike most other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus) like to spend a lot of time on the ground, which makes it tough to get a clear shot of one. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, “Although it can climb up the trunks of trees and hammer on wood like other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker prefers to find food on the ground. Ants are its main food, and the flicker digs in the dirt to find them. It uses its long barbed tongue to lap up the ants.”

When I spotted this male Northern Flicker—females don’t have the black mustache stripe—last weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, it was perched horizontally on a fallen tree, which gave me a clear view of its beautiful colors and patterns. Other woodpeckers, which are mostly black and white, seem drab by comparison. For the first time ever, I was also able to see the downward curve of its bill that I had seen described in birding identification guides.

This bird remained still for only a moment and then seemed to fade away into the background.

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was looking over some images from a few weeks ago searching for one to share, I came upon this shot of a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) that really highlights its beautiful colors and patterns, even from a distance.

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I observed this female Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) for quite some time yesterday, but had a difficult time getting a clear shot as she dug about in the undergrowth.

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology notes that this type of woodpecker is unusual in that it spends a lot of its time on the ground, digging in the dirt for ants and beetles. I love the coloration of the Northern Flicker and you can tell that this one is a female, because she is lacking the mustache stripe under her eye.

I didn’t manage to capture her entire body in the shot, but I like the way that she seems to emerge from the colorful underbrush.

flicker_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Against the backdrop of a frozen pond with a dusting of snow, the colors of this male Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) stood out even more brightly than usual yesterday morning. The flicker is perched on a rotted stump that is poking out of the beaver pond at my local marshland park.

I love the colors and the markings on this beautiful bird, who seems to be making a fashion statement by mixing stripes and polka dots and accenting the ensemble with touches of bright colors.

flicker1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was walking this weekend past the beaver lodge at my local marshland park, a flash of brilliant yellow in the trees across the little pond caught my eye. Through my telephoto lens I could see that there were a couple of birds in the trees, but I couldn’t see them clearly because of tree branches nor could I identify them. Still, I kept shooting, aiming at the spot where I could see the movement and the flashes of color. Here is an example of what I was seeing (though this image is significantly cropped).

Northern Flicker couple

After returning home and doing a little research, I found out that I had photographed a pair of Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus), a type of woodpecker that I had never seen before. I love their speckles and their black and red markings. These two birds were interacting in peculiar ways, with both of them flashing their feathers at the other, revealing the bright yellow colors that I had seen earlier.

Is this mating behavior? Were they putting on a performance for my benefit? I have not idea what was the cause for all of that behavior, but it certainly was intriguing.

None of my photos of these birds are that great, but I am always excited to share my photos when I see something for the first time. Perhaps the next time I will be better placed to get clearer shots.

“Maybe some sweet words will make an impression?”

“How do you like me now?”

“Two can play at that game.”

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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