Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Intergrade Flicker

Northern Flickers come in two forms—Yellow-shafted Flickers in the East and Red-shafted in the West. Because the races interbreed where their ranges overlap, these flickers are thought to be the same species. I have always known that this hybrid zone runs across the Great Plains. I was surprised when I banded this apparent hybrid on 15 April 2019 in our Olympia backyard. This female has but a trace of the red stripe which should be prominent on the back of the head on a Yellow-shafted bird. But, on the other hand, you can barely see on this photo that the shafts of this bird’s wing feathers are yellow, not red.  This bird appears to be an intergrade flicker.

Actually I should not be so surprised to find a hybrid flicker in Olympia. After running north/south through the Great Plains, the hybrid zone veers northwest, reaching coastal, southeastern Alaska. Flickers migrating south from that region and from central Alberta and central British Columbia undoubtedly find their way to western Washington during the winter. Wahl et al (2005) write that hybrid flickers are common in winter in the state.

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