My attempt to move from Southern California and create a happy and sustainable urban homestead in North Dakota, with some musings on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Return of the Flickers

Spring brings many things here in North Dakota, but the seasonal transition from winter to spring is noticeable by the timeline of the arrival of winged visitors in the neighborhood.  The bird arrival schedule is first the robins arrive, then the grackles, then a lot more robins, then even more robins, then the flickers. 

Flickers are not only an interesting bird to watch but they also have seemingly unusual/contradictory characteristics.  They're technically woodpeckers, but they don't bang their heads against trees and make holes in tree trunks, instead feeding on the ground on ants, bugs, and tasty creepy crawlies.  And strangely, even though they're year round residents here, they're rarely seen (by me) except in the Spring and Fall when some of them along with their brethren from Canada migrate through the area.
Photo Credit
Flickers are slightly larger than a robin and at first glance from a distance I usually mistake them for robins, but they're much more skittish than the bold robins and tend to flee for the safety of trees sooner than a robin would as you approach on foot.  In flight it becomes much more apparent that they're woodpeckers.  When they alight on a tree, they sometimes grab a vertical branch or the tree trunk like a woodpecker instead of perching on a horizontal branch like most birds. 
Photo Caption
Prior to 1930 the nickname of University of North Dakota athletic teams was the Flickertails (not to be confused with flickers, flickertails are a very fierce variety of local ground squirrel), but that all changed and eventually led to the current imbroglio with the Fighting Sioux nickname that is still going on today. You can read about the history of the UND nickname if you are so inclined, especially the Flickertails here on Wikipedia.
Photo Credit
 You can learn more about flickers and see more awesome pictures from the fantastic Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

3 comments:

Donna@GWGT said...

Now I know what a Flicker looks like. I never saw one and have to some time. Poor Shadowfax (two posts down). My two dogs sent each other to the dog hospital too. It was a fight over food every time. I had to stop feeding them cheese because of it.

El Gaucho said...

They're pretty cool looking birds, but honestly except for a three week window in Spring (before the trees leaf out) I never see them. So I have to get in a years worth of flicker watching now before I can't find them anymore. I've been super jealous ever since your post on cardinals and wish I could see them here....I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the bird feeder!

Yeah we have a pretty elaborate system set up so that all the dogs are fed separately and there's never any people food given out anymore. We still use small pieces of cheese, but that's only to hide their medicine. We're still very wary of any sign of food aggression and it's a quick trip to doggy jail for a timeout at the first sign of a raised lip, snarl, or aggressive behavior around food.

Donna said...

Mine pups got doggy jail too. The Sammy was a food hound and would risk the Akita's wrath for a piece of cheese. She always was on the losing end too since the Akita out weighed her by 50 lbs. He was 110 lbs and she was dainty.

You are so right with bird envy. I see cardinals all the time and when I see a new bird like your flicker, always wish I would see it here too.

Here is a blog you might enjoy. The author is a dog behavior expert.I enjoy the blog and you might too.
http://dogbehaviorscience.wordpress.com/