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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Northern Flicker Study

One of the best things about springtime, besides the warmer weather, the beautiful flowers and fresh buds, is the return of the migratory birds. This year Eliza and I were excited to see if our Northern Flickers would return to nest in the nest they carved into the dead limb of the otherwise healthy birch tree across the street.
2 females and 1 male rest between dances.
They had been coming to the nest for two years now, and we hoped they would return. We have never seen fledglings, but have seen their spectacular mating rituals, and last year we saw the oddest thing. They relocated their eggs to a hydro pole about a block away and we were lucky enough to see them do this.
Finally the showed up! This time two females and one male would do the courtship dance across the street. In the early mornings they would fly up to the railing of our friend's penthouse and hammer on their metal railing, then caw repeatedly with a devilish laugh.
I took pictures everyday and we watched them flash and jump around the birch, until exhausted they would all perch together until they started up again. Both the male and the females would take turns spending hours in the nest, feeding on the suet paddle I hung on my back porch and eating worms in the lawns down the street.
Mrs. Flicker landing on nest 1.
Now, you'd think after witnessing this kind of activity that I would describe a country setting as my place of residence, but I do not. I live in a very busy area of Vancouver, BC! Shoppers, delivery trucks, pedestrians, dogs, and lack of wilderness has not seemed to deter the Northern Flicker from finding solid digs.
For four weeks now, Eliza and I - and many observant passers by, have been seeing this noisy, brilliant orange ritual unfold. Three days ago, while enjoying our morning coffee, Eliza caught a glimpse of what we were hoping to see - they were relocating their eggs again!! I grabbed my camera and ran outside and crouched behind a parked car so I wouldn't interrupt this serious endeavour.
I took a still shot first! Got him leaving with the third egg, he flew west to the hydro pole behind our favorite restaurant, gleaming white egg pinched in his powerful beak. I refocused on the cavity in the birch and got him returning for the next one. He lands on the tree and caws loudly the same laugh he does after pecking the railing up at the penthouse, then quickly goes in the hole. Within moments his head emerges with another egg, and away he flies to the secondary nest.
The females dance!
We have researched this behavior for two years now, since we first noticed it. No information exists to suggest that this is commonplace. We took the video to Wild Birds Unlimited, and they were very excited to say the least!
We continue to watch the Flickers, and they continue to mate, and occupy the nest across the street in the birch tree, and seem to continually tend to the nest down the street where they moved the eggs to. They have blessed me with beautiful photographs, video and sounds. It is so exciting to me that these spectacular birds can be in our midst, and most people don't even notice them. It makes me wonder how much we miss when we don't take the time to be distracted by nature.

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