Monday, February 17, 2014

They Called Him Flicker, Flicker, Faster than Lightning...

A male Gilded Flicker swoops in to meet his "Red Shafted" Northern
Flicker mate, both flashing their differing colors. 
Taken November 13th at Papago Park ponds, Tempe, AZ, by Peggy Thomas

...under the trees, cavorting with Red and Yellow-shafted Flickers and producing hybrids just to make it even harder for us birders to tell all the Flickers apart!

Male Gilded Flicker, Papago Park, Nov. 2014
On a trip to Papago Park this fall, I noticed the above pair of Flickers frolicking high in the palm trees near the middle pond. At the time I thought it was a pair of Gilded Flickers.  Then I got home and started pouring over my photos and noticed the Red-shafted Flicker (Northern Flicker).  So I posted the photo online for others to comment on.  Here's what two of our local birding pro's, Gordon Karre and Pete Moulton, had to say:

Gordon - "Last winter I discovered a 'Red-shafted' Northern Flicker in South Mountain park that was hanging around with a Gilded Flicker and it pretty much spent the winter there. But have not seen it since, but there are several Gilded Flickers still in that same location. I was kind of watching for some hybridization, but did not find any."
Female "Red-shafted" Northern Flicker,
Papago Park, Nov. 2014.
Pete - "Could be a mated pair anyway, Peggy. Once upon a time (in 1973) the AOU merged the Yellow-shafted, Red-shafted, and Gilded Flickers into a single species, based on evidence of widespread interbreeding. I can vouch for the degree of interbreeding between Red and Yellow-shafteds in Colorado, and Gordon could say the same for Nebraska; but the AOU separated the Gilded back out some years ago, partly because the amount of interbreeding with Red-shafteds was less than supposed."

My photos were taken in November, not exactly breeding time for Gilded or Northern Flickers.  So it will be interesting to see in the coming months if these two are still at Papago Park and actually mate and produce hybrids.

Thank you Gordon Karre and Pete Moulton for your input :-).

Photos by Peggy Thomas


  1. How very scintillating... : )

    Brilliant photos Peggy, and great ornithological work!

  2. Thank you Laurence! I left most of the ornithological pondering to Gordon and Pete.

  3. Yellow mixed with Red would be....:)


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