Northern Flicker

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This large and exceptionally attractive woodpecker is among the several species of birds that I photographed during our stay at the Elkhorn Guest Ranch. I’ve tentatively identified her as a female Northern Flicker.

Northern Flickers are seasonal in southern Arizona, showing up in autumn and migrating northward in the spring. I normally have a great deal of difficulty photographing these birds — they are quite timid and usually fly before I can get into position to make images of them. With this individual, however, I was able to make a blind out of the door of our cabin at the ranch, hiding behind the door while the flicker patrolled the yard, looking for seeds or insects. Necessity is the mother of invention.

My identification of this bird is somewhat tentative. She is definitely a flicker. However, there are two flicker species that show up in southern Arizona: the Northern Flicker and the Gilded Flicker, with the latter bird being a year-round resident. The females of the two species have nearly identical plumage.

I have several reasons for saying that this is a Northern Flicker. First, Gilded Flickers tend to have somewhat more brownish-gold feathers on their crowns and necks than this bird shows. The differences between the species are very subtle, but this bird seems to resemble the images of Northern Flickers a bit more closely than those of Gilded Flickers.

Second, Northern Flickers in our area tend to be members of a subspecies known as Red-shafted Northern Flickers. These birds have red feathers beneath their tails. Those feathers aren’t visible on this bird but I think that I saw a flash of red when she took flight.

Third and most significant: habitat. Norther Flickers are mainly tree dwellers whereas Gilded Flickers like the desert. The location at which I made these images is relatively densely wooded, a habitat that Northern Flickers favor.

She is a beautiful bird, whatever her species. I’m delighted with these images.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 IS L zoom lens, M setting (auto ISO), first image, ISO 1600, second image, ISO 2000. Both images, f7.1 @ 1/640.

3 Replies to “Northern Flicker”

  1. picpholio says:

    A very beautiful bird, the polka dot pattern on the chest is really special.

  2. Ron says:

    Beautiful image, I know what you mean, they usually fly off before I can get a shot off. I only see the Northern Flicker in this location.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, thanks for all your pictures and we are looking forward to many more.

  3. cintwigg says:

    Oh yes – striking woodpecker!

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