I was in the middle of preparing supper when I heard the clunk at the front door. I wondered if a boy had tossed a want-ad paper on my front step. It was very windy, maybe a stick had blown out of one of my elms. I made the decision to check.
I opened the door and didn’t see anyone. Then I glanced down and saw a bird sitting on my welcome mat. He appeared stunned, but alive. His tail feathers were spread out showing their yellow tint. The back of his neck sported a small red patch. He moved his head to and fro and blinked his eyes frequently.
Flickers often come to my yard and trees to feed. They haven’t made a house call until now, though. They’ve never been clumsy, so the collision with the door was surprising. I wanted to take his picture. That would entail an exit through the back door then walking around to the front of the house. On second thought, I didn’t want to frighten the little creature so I restrained myself. Instead, I took my chances and aimed the camera through the screen door.
The photographic result was poor, but it was an evidence shot. I wanted to keep watch over the bird because it wasn’t able to fly away yet. As much as I could, I looked it over but didn’t detect any injury. Just as I decided the Flicker would be fine, he instantly took flight to the north.
The Common Flicker (Colaptus auratus) is a member of the woodpecker family. They’re a smooth, streamlined bird with a round head and long bill. The greyish coloring is flecked with black and sometimes other colors as was the case with the red patch on the fellow who crashed into my door. Their song is usually described as “wick-up wick-up” in quick succession. Other times it sounds like “yucker yucker”.
I have a lot of old, dying elm trees that contain many insects. Strangely enough, the Flickers only feed in the trees after they’ve exhausted their easily harvested supply from the ground. The bird does use its long-pointed bill to explore the tree bark for bugs but I’ve never seen them drill into a tree the way a woodpecker will do.
I haven’t read of any evidence that Flickers mate for life as do Blue Jays. But one incident this summer gave me pause. I had been enjoying the appearance of a pair of Flickers in my backyard every mid morning for several weeks. The two made sure to stay within about 20-feet of each other while feeding on lawn insects. One day, to my dismay, the neighbors’ Tuxedo cat pounced on the female, killed it and took her away. The bird’s mate harrassed the cat for awhile then eventually flew away. Several mornings the male arrived and scouted for his mate but didn’t feed as usual. Then he stopped his visits all together.
There have been other Flicker pairs appearing in my yard from time to time. However, I don’t recall seeing a solitary male until the clumsy individual who hit the door dropped by. I wonder if he is the one who lost his mate to the cat. I couldn’t tell by the state of ruffled feathers and the dazed expression of the bird.
As far as I can tell, the clumsy Flicker is OK. I wonder if he’ll make another visit. Will he be more conventionally graceful the next time?
The Blue Jay of Happiness gets along fine with all members of the woodpecker family.