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A few days ago I made a drive down a rural farm road that is bordered on one side by elderly pecan trees. In autumn and winter this road is a good place for sighting Northern Flickers, large woodpeckers that are seasonal migrants to southern Arizona. After a few minutes of driving I spotted a bird on an exposed branch and photographed it. I was positive that it was a Northern Flicker — it was in the right location and at a quick glance definitely looked like a Northern Flicker.
I realized that my identification was incorrect later that day when I looked closely at my image. This is no Northern Flicker. Rather, it is a very close relative, a Gilded Flicker.
Northern Flickers and Gilded Flickers closely resemble each other but there are some important differences in their plumage. The variant of Northern Flicker that visits southern Arizona in the fall and winter has red plumage underneath its wings and tail. Gilded Flickers have yellow plumage. Notice that the individual that I photographed has yellow feathers on the leading edge of his wing. Gilded Flickers have solid golden brown caps on their heads. Northern Flickers have much less pronounced caps.
Lifestyle is the biggest difference between the two species. As I’ve mentioned, Northern Flickers are migratory whereas Gilded Flickers are year-rounders in our area. Gilded Flickers are true desert dwellers, at home among the rocky terrain and giant Saguaros in the Sonoran Desert. In contrast, Northern Flickers like wooded terrain and at least some water.
Both species are beautiful. I’ll happily photograph any Flicker.
Image made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 800, f5.6 @ 1/4000, +1/3 stop exposure compensation.
Very nice Flicker image! Enjoyed seeing it!