Northern Flickers: Reds, Yellows, and Hybrids.

Several days ago a Northern Flicker flew through my yard showing flashes of yellow on its wings and tail. Was it a full blown Yellow-shafted or an integrade? I watched for some time hoping it would return with the goal of getting some photos. I love learning opportunities like this. It’s also nice to have more time when they happen in my yard as I’m not in as much of a hurry there. Yesterday afternoon there were 4-5 flickers moving around in my yard and the one with yellow appeared again. I knew that Yellow-shafted are east of the Rockies and Red-shafted are west, roughly speaking. I confess I didn’t know more than that and the fact that Yellow-shafted have yellow and the Red-shafted have red so I did what I usually do: photograph it like crazy and ask questions later. After a dive into the field guides, google searches, and a few confirmations from more experienced birders in BC, the flicker with yellow flashes turned out to be a hybrid.

As can be seen on the comparison photos below, the flashes of red or yellow (often best seen in flight) come from under their wings and tail. Other differences include the colour of the malar stripe on males and the face colour in females.

Male and Female Red-shafted yesterday. Note the red on the male’s wing.
Female hybrid from yesterday. Note the gray face (Red-shafted) but yellow (not red or orangish in any way) on its wing. Female full Yellow-shafted have brown faces with gray crowns. This one has a gray face.
More low quality shots of yesterday’s hybrid female. They show the wing and tail colours to be yellow, not orange. With so much hybridization, the degree of yellow can vary.
Here’s one from a few years ago with more of an orangeness to its wings and undertail. Note the face is clearly gray. There may be some Yellow-shafted genetics in this bird.
Things get more interesting with this one from last spring. The red malar is a clear Red-shafted feature for males but any red on the back of its head clearly points to Yellow-shafted. A hybrid male. The tail feathers also show red-shafted.

Anyway, just some random Monday thoughts on flickers. I love the learning process and find it useful to type out with photos. Living in Kamloops is also noteworthy. West of the Rockies but east of the coastal mountains.


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