Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Red-shafted northern flickers (Colaptens auratus) are one of the first birds I learned to recognize. Their distinctive call heralds the coming winter here in northern California and the bright red under their wings as they fly is like a neon sign on a gray autumn day. Unlike other woodpeckers, this species often forages on the ground, turning up leaves and earth with a slightly curved beak, to find insects, flying up in a frenzy if you disturb one as you're walking. In the eastern United States flickers are yellow-shafted and in between the east and west the two color forms hybridize to make various shades of orange.
I never really thought about the name of this bird until the other day when I found this colorful cluster of feathers in the woods of Howarth Park. After a moment thinking the color was artificial and had been left by careless humans, I recognized the color and pattern as I really grasped what was red-shafted about the northern flickers in these woods.
Birds: ballpoint, colored pencil, on 8.5 x 11" Hahnemuhle Ingres paper
Feathers: graphite, watercolor on Fabriano Artistico HP