So there was a Red-shafted Flicker and then another Flicker showed up except there was one minor problem. He wasn’t green. He wasn’t red. He was gray-blue and there is no such thing as a gray-blue Flicker.

I looked in my books and I look online and finally, I found a long, and hilarious article on the Northern Flicker Intergrades. This article explained that because the different styles of flicker can cross-breed — or show up in a wide variety of colors because of a lot of sub-species stuff — including the strange gray-blue of the bird on my deck. The two types of flicker have 99.9% identical DNA. The remaining .01% apparently leaves them a lot of room for feathery exploration. .

They also have intergrades, so if you are a birder, read the article, it’s pretty funny. As in laugh-out-loud funny. When you are through reading it, you will realize that sometimes, you just can’t get a sensible answer because there is no such answer.

The birds don’t have a book — or a mirror — and they don’t know they are not the color they are supposed to be. I think they don’t pull their feathers on in the morning so they will be ready for our photographs.

The thing I did notice (on close examination) is that this blue-gray bird has a slightly green area of feathers around his neck and cheeks — and on the top of his head, a slightly salmon colored v-shaped group of feathers. They aren’t red, but definitely not blue or gray or brown (another possible color, as well as buff). You probably can’t see it in the photographs. Well, maybe a little bit.

I had to go in very tight to see it and there was no way I could display the photographs big enough for any of you to easily see the other colors. There’s also no guaranteeing that this birds won’t change color again as he grows up. You’ll just have to trust me. If you look really carefully you might see light green feathers on his cheeks.

Also, this is a juvenile. You can tell by how thin he is and his (her?) rather long neck compared to body size. He will fill up and out as he grows.

Meanwhile, if you see a strangely colored flicker? Don’t worry. They come in a lot of colors and can look like almost anything! The only thing that gives them away as flickers is that speckled black and white back and that long, pointy beak.

Otherwise? They come in disguise.

Categories: #Birds, #gallery, #Photography, Anecdote, Nature, New England, Wildlife

Tags: , , , ,

9 replies

  1. It’s just mind-boggling, the world of birds. I’ve been taking photographs of them for a few years and I continue to be amazed and fascinated. That article on the Northern Flicker Intergrades is funny and educative.

    One learning from your post and that article is that a mix of red and yellow doesn’t necessarily make orange. All that was drummed into me about colour formation is a lie!


  2. I love the angle of it’s neck and head as it dips into the seed. Best, Babsje


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