Birds of a feather…

Female Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker

This is the time of year when things get birdy again. Spring – usually the third week in May, is the birdiest time of year. Then, migration is in full swing and the tree foliage is still thin enough that you can see the birds relatively easily. But Fall brings another kind of birdiness. By the third week in September most birds have finished their nesting activity – some for the second time this summer – and the juveniles have fledged and are mostly out on their own.  But, as the old saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together” and many of the juveniles hang around with the adults in large groups.  In some species juveniles gather with the adults to form small, medium, large and sometimes huge flocks of marauding birds looking for food in advance of their Fall migration South. Most of you are familiar with the large Flights of Tree Swallows sitting on power lines, V-shaped Skeins of Canada Geese, huge Clouds of Blackbirds and Murmurations  or Chatterings of European Starlings, and smaller Murders of American Crows swirling over grain fields.

But my favorites are the family groups of Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flickers that appear in our lawns. While never as numerous as the swallows, blackbirds or starlings the flickers make up for their smaller numbers by their beauty and close proximity.  Unfortunately, I don’t know of any name specifically for a group of Flickers, although a group of woodpeckers is called a Descent which would seem apt for Flickers given that they spend much of their time on the ground.

Six of a group of ten Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flickers in our yard
Female on left (head up) and two males on right (with black “moustaches”)

Yesterday we enjoyed a group of ten flickers who foraged in our lawn for over an hour only a few yards from our front windows. Flickers eat ants and spend much of their time on the ground with their heads in the grass but they’re not easily spooked and will put up with me at the window trying to catch them with their head up for a “nice” picture.  The one on the left in the photo below even shows the yellow shafts of its wing feathers (you wondered what that yellow-shafted business was about, didn’t you?).

Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flickers foraging for ants in the lawn

Beside posing so willingly, flickers are one of the prettiest of the woodpeckers we see in our area.  Soon they’ll move South and we’ll have to wait until Spring to see them again.  For now we’ll enjoy them while they are still around in such numbers.

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