05 February 2011

A Welcomed Visitor

In the days leading up to and following the (in my opinion much overhyped) recent "Snowmageddon," we noticed an increase in the number of birds at our feeders, and in the amount of bird food that was consumed.

In the photograph above, House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus), American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis), a Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), and an American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) enjoy a meal on our platform feeder.

Above, House Finches and an American Goldfinch are joined by a Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor).

Like Tufted Titmice, the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) shown above doesn't stick around on the feeder for long. It grabs some food and quickly flies off to cache a morsel in the bark of a nearby tree for a later snack.

Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), like the one on the platform above, have been especially plentiful as of late, with our high count being around 15 individuals. But who is that on the suet feeder?

The snow and cold weather seemed to have brought a female Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) to our feeders. Our suet feeders are frequented by Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens), Hairy Woodpeckers (Picoides villosus), and Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) in the winter, but we rarely see Northern Flickers eating at our feeders. When we do encounter this species in our yard, it is often on the ground or at the base of a tree feeding on ants (their primary food source) or beetles. The subspecies that we see in the eastern United States is called the Yellow-shafted Flicker (C. auratus auratus); Red-shafted Flickers (C. auratus cafer) reside in the western United States. The common names of these subspecies come from the color under the tail, on the underwings, and on the shafts of the primary feathers. You can easily see the characteristic yellow or red, as well as the characteristic white rump, when the bird is in flight. At one time, Yellow-shafted Flickers and Red-shafted Flickers were considered two distinct species. However, hybrids which look intermediate between the two are common where the ranges overlap, and thus the two have been taxonomically lumped into one species with two subspecies.

For more information on Northern Flickers, including some amazing information on their tongues (that's right, their tongues), be sure to check out this post by Janet Creamer and this post by Jim McCormac.


Janet Creamer said...

Nice post, Scott. Glad to see you guys are enjoying yourselves, despite the weather. Booty Pants is a hoot! Thanks for the blog plug!

Keith said...

We have a sandy spot in the yard that is loaded with small red ants, and it's common to see a Flicker feeding there for hours. I sometimes see Flickers on very tall ant hills in prairie remnants. Nice post.

Scott Namestnik said...

Thanks Janet. The weather isn't that bad, really, at least up here. We didn't get the ice that you probably got in Indianapolis.

Glad you enjoyed Lindsay's post on Bootypants' fort. Lindsay posted that photo on Facebook and had 40-some comments.

I remembered your post on Northern Flickers (and Jim's as well), so they were both worth the plug!

Scott Namestnik said...

Thanks Keith. I've heard of pouring sugar water around the base of trees to attract ants, which in turn attracts Northern Flickers. I tried it once, but I don't remember it working.

Heather@RestoringTheLandscape.com said...

I've seen northern flickers too recently on our suet feeder which is a first.

Scott Namestnik said...

One of the references I looked at said that they eat berries and seeds in winter, but the other references just mentioned insects.

Beth said...

Yeah, our flickers come up to the suet feeder on occasion. They also like the heated bird bath and sometimes stop by to get a drink. I think they're very handsome birds.

Scott Namestnik said...

Hi Beth. Heated bird baths are great for attracting interesting birds in the winter. I often hear of Eastern Bluebirds visiting heated bird baths in the winter as well.