Friday, November 26, 2010

Northern Flicker Hybrid

We have had a lack, a dearth, a severe shortage of Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus) this Fall.  Really, we usually have scads of these colourful, interesting woodpeckers around.  One finally showed up at my feeders a couple days ago.  Turns out it isn't the average Northern Flicker. 

There are two subspecies of Northern Flickers designated by the colour of the shafts of their primaries (flight-feathers).  

The Yellow-shafted is the eastern type; the one we have where I live.  Both males and females have yellow shafts, yellow undersides to the tail feathers and underwing plus a red crescent on the nape of the neck.  The males have a black malar (moustache).  The Red-shafted is the western version.  Red shafts and undersides of tail feathers and underwing, no red on nape.  The male has a red malar.  Hybrids are common where the regions overlap. 

My visitor is a hybrid.  It is Yellow-shafted, but there's black AND red in the malar.

 I'm a fair distance from regular Red-shafted territory (which is, say, Alberta and west), so this fella is a bit unusual for this area.  He's out of range. 

This sort of explains his sudden arrival - possibly flying ahead of the recent cold front, or got lost dodging a previous storm.  Who knows.  Some birds wander.  He's here now and eating ravinously at my feeders.  I hope he stays.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your photos and thoughts on why this guy showed up. I saw a similar specimen yesterday in BC. It was feeding in tall grass that went to seed behind my cabin.