Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the northern red-shafted flicker.
Oftentimes seen flying from the ground when flushed or heard drumming on household chimney pipes, the flicker is a mainstay of the ponderosa pine and oak woodland forests found in Pagosa Springs.
This large member of the woodpecker family has arguably nontypical plumage. Both males and females have a soft brown casting on the body with cryptic black spotting on their lighter-colored breasts, red-shafted wing and tail feathers and a black bib on the neck. Both sexes have a gray face and brown head; males have a distinct red mustache. You may have even found one of their brilliant, almost orange feathers on the ground. The tail feathers are elongated to a point, which helps with stabilizing the bird on tree trunks. In flight, you may notice their distinct white rump, undulating flight pattern and flashy coloring under wing.
Flickers eat a lot of ants and beetles. They’ll forage for these on the ground oftentimes, but won’t hesitate to drum up and down a diseased mature pine looking for snacks. These birds are fantastic at excavating cavities, providing ideal nesting locations for not only themselves, but many other species as well, including nuthatches, bluebirds and other woodpeckers. People often complain as they sometimes will do this on our wooden siding, too. To detract them, consider building a nest box for them nearby. Consult for specific directions.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit and