Woodpeckers, Sapsuckers, and Flickers are a fascinating family of birds. They are so similar, yet so different. They have quirky behaviors that make them fun to sit back and watch. I have seen a few, and I hope to see several more. Just for fun, here are photos of the Picidae birds I've seen:
The first Lewis's Woodpecker I ever saw was at the Oak Flat Campground outside of Superior, AZ on Nov 22nd, 2006. Since then I have seen them here at Avimor as well as four other Idaho birding hotspots. Their color pattern and flight are distinct among the Picidaes. With their large wings, they seem to soar across the tree tops rather than showing the trademark undulating flight style common to most other woodpecker species. It is also fun to watch them flycatching from a tall snag.
While I lived in Arizona, I saw Gila Woodpeckers 54 times, per my eBird records. Most often it was at recreation areas along the Salt River near Mesa, AZ or at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix where I often spent my lunch breaks birdwatching. This is one cool bird that would visit my backyard too. The red thumb print on top of the head is unique and indicates a male.
The Ladder-backed Woodpecker was an occasional treat to see down in Arizona. The first one I ever saw was at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. I vividly recall a couple encounters with them at recreation areas along the Salt River. And my eBird record shows that I saw one at Ash Canyon Bed & Breakfast too.
Next to the Northern Flicker, the Downy Woodpecker is the species I see most frequently. They are super cute little things. I recall seeing my first one on a walk with my father-in-law at Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge. It was feeding on a stalk of hairy mullen right on the edge of the trail. It let us get to within a couple feet of it where we observed it very closely for a long long time. Surprisingly, all of my sightings of Downy Woodpeckers have been in Idaho. I never did see one in Arizona and my birding in other states has been pretty limited.
The Hairy Woodpecker has a special place for me as the first bird on my life list. Oh, it wasn't the first bird I ever saw as an official birdwatcher, but it is the first bird on my eBird life list because it was the first written record I kept after I had gotten myself my first Sibley's field guide. When I finally started using eBird it became the first official record of my sighting on September 18th, 2004. At the time I was the leader of a few 11-year-old Boy Scouts and we were on a campout at the Christopher Creek Campground off of Highway 260 in Arizona. I currently only have five sightings of a Hairy Woodpecker, two in AZ, two in ID, and one in Oregon.
I currently have more than 200 eBird recorded sightings of the Northern Flicker. I have probably seen them at least double that without recording them because I wasn't officially birding at the time. My sightings come from ID, AZ, OR, and UT. I get them at my platform feeder almost every day. I've observed them nesting in tree cavities and fighting with Kestrels and Starlings over such nesting holes. I have only seen the Red-Shafted subspecies, so I look forward to seeing Yellow-shafted at a future date.
Photos by Robert Mortensen at my home in Mesa, AZ
I have seven eBird recorded sightings of the Gilded Flicker, but I see that I posted the photo above to birdforum in April of 2005, so that was probably my first official sighting before I discovered eBird. I recall seeing them a couple of times at my seed block in Mesa. All of of my other sightings were at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.
A future post will be of my Woodpecker Wish List and where I could possibly see them in Idaho in 2010!