Flicker flight

Northern Flickers are one of our most colorful winter birds, but rarely do we get to see the golden highlights they hide under their wings and tail, and for which they were once named (formerly known as Yellow-shafted Flicker).

In their usual upright perched posture, the golden highlights are completely hidden.

In their usual upright perched posture, the golden highlights are almost completely hidden.  There is a hint of yellow barely showing on the tail.

But if you catch the bird in just the right light, you get a glimpse of the yellow underside of the tail.

But if you catch the bird in just the right light, you get a glimpse of the yellow underside of the tail, quite striking against the pale polka-dotted breast feathers.

In flight, we can see the hint of yellow that lines the shafts of the primary flight feathers.

In flight, we can see the hint of yellow that lines the shafts of the primary flight feathers.  (The bird almost flew out of the photo, so I had to crop severely.)

The entire underside of the wings are the same bright yellow as the underside of the tail.  But you have to be really quick to catch it as they dart from feeder to tree.

The entire underside of the wings are the same bright yellow as the underside of the tail. But you have to be really quick to catch it as they dart from feeder to tree.  The white rump patch is another visual signal that identifies the bird.

What possible purpose could this yellow coloration serve?  Especially since it is so rarely visible?  Whoever named this bird must have been impressed with the flash of color that barely flickers in your eye before it is gone.

9 thoughts on “Flicker flight

    • I think Mr. Flicker is turning out to be one of my favorites as well. Every time I see him I am more impressed with that beautiful and exotic looking plumage.

  1. I am really impressed with the in-flight shots, but it’s the first shot that really grabs my eye. The colors and patterns of a flicker never cease to amaze me (even when I can’t see the yellow). Wow!

  2. Funny, but the flicker is the hardest of the woodpeckers for me to photograph. Maybe that’s because they don’t overwinter here and are busy spending the time they are here raising a family. They are really lovely birds.

    • I have only seen them once or twice during the breeding season, and only then because we happen to have a lot of anthills in our lawn. I’m glad they love ants and found some in our backyard.

  3. I believe I may have a flicker that comes to visit my bird feeders a couple times a year, it’s markings are very similar and it’s call or song are distinct. It’s almost a chirp, that is slightly extended. Do you know where I might find a recording of the flickers vocalizations?
    Thank you

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