Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Northern Flickers are Back

I've spent most of the week monitoring bluebird boxes and driving my Prius down through the river bottoms over by Meridean.
                                                                                       female Northern Flicker

Flickers arrived Tuesday - and they've been very vocal - with their "wicka-wicka-wicka" and "klear" calls.  They're all over the lawns in the Durand area, hanging out with the robins.  At first I thought they were robins.  But when they flew off, I recognized my error - their white rumps are very conspicuous when they take off.

What are they doing on the ground?

Eating ants.   And that is probably one of the reasons flicker numbers are declining in Wisconsin.  Lawn chemicals and pesticides - our quest for weed- and insect-free lawns.   The irony of it all - birds eat lawn pests for free.

In addition to "green" lawns, we want our yards and parks - tidy.

When a tree dies, we tear it down and haul it away.    These snags provide food and nesting sites for woodpeckers and other cavity-nesting birds.

If that weren't enough, cavity-nesting birds suffer the success of progeny of the 100 European Starlings brought to Central Park back in 1890 in a misguided effort by Eugene Schieffelin to establish Shakespeare's birds in New York City.  

Other birds spotted this week:  Tree Swallows, Vesper Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Blue-winged Teal, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, Great Blue Herons, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (doing a great spiral chase up an aspen over by Silver Birch Lake county park), Pileated Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Eastern Phoebes.  Dark-eyed Juncos are still around.

And tomorrow is April 15th:  pay your taxes and put out your hummingbird feeders!

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