Monday, April 27, 2009

Flicker Love

Perhaps the loudest "sign of spring" lately is provided by the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). Although most of our local birds have been courting, some vociferously, the Flicker takes his job seriously. We have a pair, and it seems as if there's a pair for every couple of houses in the neighborhood. Or "our" pair gets around.

Flickers conduct their courtship and territorial displays with two means of getting attention: calling and drumming. They're large birds, so they can make a lot of noise. It's tiring, I'm sure, so he needs to hit the suet feeder regularly to refuel, as he is here.

Here's a small sample of the morning wake-up call we got at 7:40 a.m. Sunday. Repeat at regular intervals for full effect. This drumming is especially impressive because it's taking place on the metal stovepipe on our roof, which means you can hear it inside as well as outside the house. Beats beating on a hollow log, he says.

I like the test thunks that precede the drumming, as if he's checking the surface for proper resonance. Here's what the 8 seconds of drumming above looks like. (You can click to see these better if you like.) Bee Lady said "it's so fast!"; looks like about 20 percussive events per second, when I zoom it in.

Part 2 of the Flicker courtship ritual is calling. Both of these noises serve to attract mates and provide territorial warnings to interlopers. I was criticized a few years back for calling bird songs noise, so you be the judge on this one. Do we want to call that a song? It looks like this:

Add that to everyone else out there advertising, and it ends up being quite a delightful spring cacophony. Especially when you begin to figure out the individual voices. Here's a taste of just two voices (Note: 4 mb file), the staccato Scrub Jay squawk over a distant Flicker call.

For all this, you may thank an old friend (we'll call him TrailMeister, or TM for short) who reappeared this year to chide me for not recognizing the call of a Kingfisher. (I mean, how often do I see/hear a Kingfisher? GMAB.) But I had a digi-recorder handy, so I started sending him little challenges, and... well, here we are. Now that I've figured out how to post these little clips, you can expect more of them!

In fairness, I must add that The Chemist sent me this link some weeks ago, where I went to find out what Kingfishers sound like. The Chemist recommended listening to rattlesnakes as a dog-training exercise. That's another story, but may well have reminded me that my recorder would work for other than its intended purpose.

1 comment:

TrailMeister said...

Deeply honored to be included, even though it is a bit of a misrepresentation to describe my comments regarding the Kingfisher as "chiding!"