Monday, December 19, 2016

Intergrade Flicker

The best bird we saw during Saturday’s Northfield Christmas Bird Count was this odd Northern Flicker. I think it is an intergrade between the western Red-shafted and eastern Yellow-shafted races of the species. The two races interbreed where their ranges overlap in the upper Great Plains.

It is quite different from the intergrade flicker we saw in Wyoming last summer. The Wyoming bird looked much like a yellow-shafted bird. Saturday’s bird looks like a female Red-shafted Flicker. It has gray sides to the face and reddish wing and tail feathers. But the red nape feathers are red, a yellow-shafted field mark, which should be lacking in a red-shafted female.

Recent research indicates that Yellow-shafted Flicker feathers sometimes turn orange after the birds eat non-native honeysuckle berries. The gray sides to this bird’s face, however, argue against this bird’s being an orange-shafted Yellow-shafted Flicker.

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