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  • Writer's pictureKen Campbell

Bird Feeder

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

There is always something going on at the bird feeder. Different birds use the feeder in different ways. Some go to the seed dispensers and take all that interests them from there – Chickadees, Black-headed grosbeaks, House finches, Goldfinches, Blackbirds, and Nuthatches do this primarily. Others seek what they want on the ground under the seed dispensers – Mourning doves, Steller’s jays, Spotted towhees, and Flickers are the primary birds with this habit. Others use both approaches about equally – Dark-eyed juncos are as likely to go to the ground as to go to the dispenser. Then, there is the rare visitor like the Pileated woodpecker or the Hairy woodpecker which go to the seed dispenser only briefly and then return to the nearby pear tree to continue foraging. Finally, there is the Cooper’s hawk, which has no interest in seeds or what is on the ground under the feeder but comes whooshing by in hopes of catching one of the seed eaters which it will consume in the nearby cottonwood tree. The bird feeder feeds birds in a multitude of ways.

There is much to speak of about the behavior of birds around the feeder. But today, I wish to mention my sighting of a rarity at the feeder this past week.

There are lots of Northern flickers here at the farm as there are at most rural settings in the Northwest. With their brown, barred back, spotted underparts, and black crescent bib, they are distinctive. Their proclivity for creating holes in wooden structures makes them well known to homeowners and foresters. Northern flickers are found throughout most of North America. In the west, the predominant form is the red-shafted flicker, in the east, the predominant form is the yellow-shafted flicker. The difference between these two forms is the color of under-wing lining and under tail feathers; red in the red-shafted, yellow in the yellow-shafted.

Here at the farm, we are outside the range of the yellow-shafted and all our flickers are red-shafted. Well, not quite all. Earlier this week, I saw a yellow-shafted flicker at the bird feeder! It was on the ground under the feeder but not eating spilled seeds; it was eating a pear that had fallen from the nearby tree! Here were two notable observations: 1) a rare bird and 2) the solution of the mystery as to what was cleaning up the fallen fruit under the farm’s fruit trees.

It was not long before the yellow-shafted was displaced by two red-shafted birds. The yellow-shafted was here briefly; then gone; maybe not to be seen again. But I have photos to document the sighting; so, I have a tangible reference for those future times when I might question my memory.

The bird feeder is a source of unending entertainment and provides many opportunities for new discoveries.


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