Flickers Foraging were the Stand-Outs today, 11-24-20

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center/Preserve.  It was a slightly foggy, chilly morning, around 34° when I arrived at the river. It only made it to about 61° by the afternoon. I actually like this cooler weather. I didn’t see a whole lot on my walk, but it was great to be moving out in the crisp autumn air.

Lots of Starlings were out singing and chirping to one another. I found one sitting above a cavity and wondered if it was advertising its “love shack”. According to Cornell:

“…Males normally use a song perch 4–10 m from the nest site or a perch mounted on a nest box, but occasionally sit on the ground under the nest site. This song perch may be shared with other males in the vicinity. Singing is sometimes heard at roosts, even at night… Starlings make an impressive range of sounds, including clear whistles, liquid warbling, harsh chattering, high pitched trills, rattles, and strident screams, in addition to mimicry of other sounds (see above). Although the starling’s vocalizations sound quite variable and even garbled at times, they are well organized. Vocalizations can be divided into the structurally more simple calls used by both sexes and songs, used primarily by the male…”

A European Starling singing above the opening of a nesting cavity.

The Starlings are also great mimics. I’ve heard one at Effie Yeaw that does the screel of a Red-Tailed Hawk perfectly.

According to Cornell:

“…Mimicry is an important element in both the whistled and warbled songs (Hausberger et al. 1991). Individuals may mimic up to 20 different calls. In North America, commonly heard mimicries include the Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens), Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus), Eastern and Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna and S. neglecta; Figures 3b, c), Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), American Robin (Turdus migratorius), American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), and many others. Mimicry may function to increase the repertoire size and potential attractiveness of males…”

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Among all the usual suspects, I did get two see a couple of interesting things.  One was a female Purple Finch who was among the tules in the demonstration pond at the end of the Pond Trail.  She was rubbing her beak and face along the length of a tule, but not really scratching her face or wiping her beak. It was an odd behavior I’d never seen before.  Was she itchy? Was she pulling the foggy-damp of the tule to wet her feathers and in effect wash her face? Was she scraping and nibbling something off the surface of the tule that I couldn’t see?     

Watch the video and tell me what you think.       

I also got to watch a male, red-shafted Northern Flicker eating berries off a Chinese Pistache tree. He was very selective, and only ate those berries that had gone blue. Flickers usually eat ants and other insects as their main food source, but will eat berries and seeds in the winter months if they can’t find enough insects.            

The sme male, red-shafted Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus,sitting on a nearby stump

Further along the trail, I watched another male, red-shafted Flicker foraging on the ground,  According to Cornell:

“…Flickers forage for ants and other insects by probing and hammering in soil with their powerful bills…Flickers have the remarkable protrusile tongue, derived by great elongation of the basihyal and part of the hyoid horns, that is characteristic of woodpeckers. The sticky tongue darts out as much as 4 cm beyond the bill tip as it laps up adult and larval ants…Foraging may also occur in winter (a pair to as many as 12 birds) feeding on a crop of preferred fruit… May occasionally drink from natural catch-basins in trees (e.g., knot-holes)…”   

Here’s a not-so-great video snippet of the Flicker foraging on the ground:

I also have a photo of the depression left in the ground from where the bird was digging. Interesting behavior.

Depression created in the ground by a foraging Northern Flicker.

I found what I believe was a Digger Bee’s mound, and at the “bee tree” there was only one sentry bee again.

A kind of digger bee’s mound.

I walked for about 3 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  5. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  6. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  7. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [flying overhead]
  9. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  10. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  11. Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos [flying overhead]
  12. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  13. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  14. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  15. Feral European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  16. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
  17. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica [blue-green dust lichen]
  18. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  19. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  20. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  21. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  22. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  23. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  24. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  25. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  26. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  27. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  28. Purple Finch, Haemorhous purpureus
  29. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  30. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  31. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  32. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  33. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  34. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  35. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  36. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  37. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  38. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  39. ?? Goldenrod, Solidago sp.
  40. ?? spider’s web