Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A flicker of red

Red-shafted northern flickers (Colaptens auratus) are one of the first birds I learned to recognize. Their distinctive call heralds the coming winter here in northern California and the bright red under their wings as they fly is like a neon sign on a gray autumn day. Unlike other woodpeckers, this species often forages on the ground, turning up leaves and earth with a slightly curved beak, to find insects, flying up in a frenzy if you disturb one as you're walking. In the eastern United States flickers are yellow-shafted and in between the east and west the two color forms hybridize to make various shades of orange.

I never really thought about the name of this bird until the other day when I found this colorful cluster of feathers in the woods of Howarth Park. After a moment thinking the color was artificial and had been left by careless humans, I recognized the color and pattern as I really grasped what was red-shafted about the northern flickers in these woods.

Birds: ballpoint, colored pencil, on 8.5 x 11" Hahnemuhle Ingres paper
Feathers: graphite, watercolor on Fabriano Artistico HP


  1. Oh, lovely, Debbie! We mostly have yellow-shafted flickers here, and like the red ones the feathers have that distinctive, colorful shaft!

  2. I really like your version of a bird I really like. And I am blown away by your watercolor work on the feathers :)

  3. Lovely painting. We have these birds in our new home in NM. The underfeathers are a bright salmon color, which just blows me away when they take flight and the sun shines on them.

  4. Great sketches Debbie. The flickers we have in VA are mostly black and white. I don't remember ever seeing one with yellow on it. It's so interesting how much I've learned on this blog. Thanks!


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