Monday, April 15, 2013

Northern Flicker Courtship Display

Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus

The camera sequences below shows a "courtship" display between two flickers. In the larger photos only the bird on the right is shown. In the smaller photos at the end, both birds are shown.

Neither bird has a malar mustache, which implies these are both females, and the display, is therefore curious.

When I arrived home at about 5:45 PM on April 15, 2013, I opened the front curtains and saw one of the flickers at the peanut feeder. In the Black-bud Willow behind the feeder I saw the second flicker. Yesterday I saw two flickers, likely the same two, at another peanut feeder. I hardly ever see two flickers together in my back yard, so this was unusual and I watched. 

Both flickers relocated to opposing horizontal limbs off the trunk of a Japanese Tree Lilac. The trunk shows lots Downy and Hairy Woodpecker excavation.
Tail feathers spread to both sides. 

For about ten minutes I watched the display evolve. The flicker on the right kept the tail feathers spread to the sides while perched, but the bird on the left kept the tail feathers mostly straight back.
Pointing head up to left side. 

At the start of the display the birds both pointed their head up to one side and then the other. Then, the bird on the right fanned the tail feathers as the head bobbed down.
Tail feathers start to fan as head moves down. 

Head down & tail fan increased. 

Head down tail almost fully fanned
Tail in full fan and now head to the left
looking towards other flicker. 
Head looks to right away from other bird.
Head pointing - start of next display sequence.
The bird on the right repeated the pattern of head pointing followed by tail fanning many times. The bird on the left responded with some head pointing but only modestly fanned the tail feathers.

The smaller photos below show both birds but I was not able to enlarge these in the blog. 


The bird on the right has a red crescent on the nape of the neck, which implies this is a Yellow-shafted (Eastern) flicker, but the tail feathers are more orange, which to me implies an intermediate species. Bird on the left has an emerging red crescent and is therefore less mature. Neither bird had a malar mustache, which is red in the Red-shafted male, and black in the Yellow-shafted male. This implies that both birds are female.  

I wondered if the bird on the right was teaching the bird on the left? 

After watching for about 10 minutes and taking photos through the window, I decided to risk opening the door for a clearer shot. The bird on the left flew away immediately. A minute later the bird on the right flew across the yard to a peanut feeder.  

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