Readers’ wildlife photos

July 5, 2023 • 8:15 am

Thank Ceiling Cat I didn’t run out of photos. But there’s always a need so, dear readers, comrades, and friends, do send in your good wildlife photos.

Today’s photos are a varied set from reader Mark Richardson, who lives in Washington State. Mark’s narration and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

JAC: first, a bit about the races of flickers from the Cornell bird site:

The red-shafted and yellow-shafted forms of the Northern Flicker formerly were considered different species. The two forms hybridize extensively in a wide zone from Alaska to the panhandle of Texas. A hybrid often has some traits from each of the two forms and some traits that are intermediate between them. The Red-shafted Flicker also hybridizes with the Gilded Flicker, but less frequently.

On to Mark’s descriptions

We were lucky to meet a mated pair of intergrade Northern flickers (Cuculus auratusthis) earlier this year. Out here in the NW, west of the Cascades, we see a lot of Western Northern flickers. They have red shafted tails and wing feathers and distinct facial and nape markings; they’re ubiquitous and easy to identify. Then comes this yellow shafted flicker. My wife spotted it first and brought it to my attention. After doing some research, we resolved they’re “Eastern flickers”, and it seems there’s a pair, as subsequent days revealed two yellow shafted individuals. We just noticed the yellow shafts, and identified them as Eastern. We kept photographing them and analyzing their markings and finally realized that they weren’t Western or Eastern, they were intergrades! I also wondered why these were called “intergrade” instead of hybrid, and found this. “An intergrade is the product of two subspecies or subspecies groups, and a hybrid is the product of two species.” That might not clarify anything.

But here’s a summation I found:

Intergrade flickers are a cross between a Red-shafted Northern Flicker and a Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker. They are both “Northern”, but the Eastern variety has yellow shafts, the western has red shafts. The male integrated has red malar stripes which are a characteristic of male Red-shafted flickers. He also has the red nape crescent which is a characteristic of male Yellow-shafted flickers. The female lacks the red nape crescent that the Yellow-shafted flicker has. Both male and female have yellow shafts.

As the photos reveal, this is a pair of intergraded Northern flickers! I think they’re rare in this neck of the woods. I also wonder if they can have viable offspring? They visited the suet feeder for about a week in March and haven’t been seen since…

Credit for all the flicker photos go to my wife, Patti Berger.

Intergraded male flicker flying off:

Intergraded female flicker:

Intergraded female flicker flying off:

Here’s a couple of European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) that I really like. Also taken by P. Berger. Something about their intrepid stance…reminds me of Hitchcock.

The next set is of a Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapics ruber). I’ve lived in this area for over 15 years, and I’ve never seen this bird. I was able to catch a nice sequence…soft, I’ll admit, but my heart was a-pounding.

The last two pictures are of American black bears (Ursus americanus). I showed some of these interlopers on WEIT last year, but this year we have cubs! Excited, but not really since the bears destroy our bird hobby and cubs make for a dangerous sow. We still haven’t figured out how to feed the birds and not the bears. Bears eat everything, and they’re frickin’ smart! The cub photo is a bit blurry, but you can see one on the left clearly, and the one on the right is just a shadow (we’ve named them Lucy and Desi). I wish I could have got a better photo, but that’s all I got. When mom was eating the bird food (2nd photo) the little ones were yipping and trying to climb the fence. Oy! This is a scenario where I’m against education!


Sheila with her tongue out, eating bird food:

7 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Thank you for these delightful and beautiful photos!
    The Northern Flickers are such great photos.
    Those European Starlings certainly are ominous.
    I love those cubs and Sheila. Very adorable.

  2. Cool! I live in the Pacific Northwest and have seen many, many flickers—but never a yellow-shafted or hybrid. Nice catch!

  3. Very nice photos! Thank you for the heads-up to pay more attention to Flickers and their wing and tail colors. They are one of those species that’s so abundant you almost neglect to notice how exquisitely beautiful they are.

  4. Colleagues who were studying snowshoe hares in the Yukon had their food-supply research disrupted by grizzly bears who knocked over the feeders and ate the rabbit chow. The researchers solved this problem using ‘optimal foraging theory’. Instead of providing the food in concentrated feeders, they scattered it over the landscape. The hares didn’t mind (more like their usual food distribution) but the bears decided that searching out the individual pellets of chow was too much trouble.

    So maybe Mark could scatter his bird food in a way that wouldn’t be attractive to the bears.

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