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Bird of the Month
Common Name: Red-Shafted Flicker
Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
Northern Flickers are large, brown woodpeckers with handsome black-scalloped plumage that live year-round in Nevada. Their brown plumage is richly patterned with black spots, bars, and crescents. The red-shafted (western) and yellow-shafted (eastern) forms of Northern Flickers were once classified as different species. Red-shafted or yellow-shafted refers to the color of the undersides of wing and tail feathers. The two forms hybridize extensively in the area between their two ranges. It is not unusual at all to see a hybrid here, sometimes with yellow wing and tail feathers and the red mustache; or red-shafted with red nape crescent instead of red mustache.
When flushed, flickers often perch erect on horizontal branches rather than hitching up or around a tree trunk like most woodpeckers. Flickers do fly like most woodpeckers do, rising and falling smoothly as they intersperse periods of flapping with gliding.
Like most woodpeckers, Northern Flickers drum on objects as a form of communication and territory defense. The object is to make as loud a noise as possible, so metal poles and pipes are sometimes preferred targets for this drumming. This is an interesting behavior unless it's your roof vent pipe he chooses at five in the morning!
Flickers are very fond of ants, and it is quite common to find them on the ground, probing the dirt with their long, slightly curved bill to find this delicacy. In Reno and Sparks suburban or urban settings, flickers are likely to be found during the winter in backyards with mature trees. If you are interested in attracting these beautiful and interesting birds to your yard, here are some suggestions:
- Hang a tail-prop suet feeder with a suet that contains peanuts or insects. In addition to flickers you might see other woodpeckers, warblers, and wrens coming to this feeder.
- Hang a wire feeder specifically designed for shelled peanuts. Other birds also like peanuts, including jays and even House Finches.
- Hopper feeders with sunflower seeds will also attract flickers, along with other bird species.
All of these food selections are also very high in fat and protein, which is beneficial to birds, especially in the winter. Feeders and food can be obtained at Wild Birds Unlimited inside all Moana Nursery locations in Reno and Sparks.
A bird's primary consideration when choosing a nesting site is security. Protection from predators and proximity to food is of vital importance to the success of a bird's offspring.
Abundant and easily obtained sources of food allow for more time to be devoted to better nest site selection and construction of higher quality nests, along with more time and energy to be vigilant in defense of the nesting territory from interlopers and predators.
Choosing a feeder food that contains added calcium is a great way to benefit the nesting birds in your backyard.
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Lahontan Audubon Society
Friday, March 2 8:00am
Field Trip - Mayberry/Dorostkar Parks
Tuesday, March 13 6:00pm
LAS Board meeting
Friday, March 16 8:00am
Field Trip - Cottonwood Park, Sparks, NV
Saturday, March 17 8:00am
Field Trip - Annual Dipper Day
Tuesday, March 20 4:00pm
Tuesday, March 27 6:30pm
Program Meeting - Learning to bird NW Nevada with the help of eBird - Jeff Bleam
Friday, March 30 8:00am
Field Trip - Whites Creek Canyon
Saturday, March 31 4:30am
Field Trip - Susanville Sage-Grouse Lek and Honey Lake
Tahoe Institute of Natural Science
* Male Red-shafted Northern Flickers can be heard throughout the day defining their territory and showing off for potential mates.
* In a heavy snow year, meadowlarks can be seen eating mealworms along with cracked corn.
* Wildflowers might begin to bloom if snowfall is light. You might see Western Trillium, Bitteroot and Larkspur.
* Meadowlarks can be heard singing.
* Killdeer call for their mates and can show up in the most unlikely places seeking out suitable nesting sites.
* Townsend's Solitare are often seen on their favorite food source - Juniper berries.
* Male American Robins can often be heard before dawn defining their territory and calling for a mate. They are also the last birds calling in the evening.