So what is a YearBird? The idea is that on New Years Day the first bird you see that day will become your YearBird. Then as the months roll on every time you see your YearBird you get to take a moment to appreciate your special bird and reflect on all the places you have seen him before.
So strictly speaking if I were to follow that “rule” exactly my YearBird EVERY year would be the Anna’s humming bird. I have a hummingbird feeder right outside my bedroom window and every day of the year they are the first birds I see. My Anna’s are on the feeder well before first light and hang out in my yard all day, all year.
So, I allow myself some creative license and look beyond the hummers some years to find my YearBird. I have had some real dandies too, like the year the snowy owls came into town.
Most years I just see one of the usual suspects and I am delighted to pick them. I’ve had dark-eyed juncos, Bewick’s wren, winter wren (before they were reclassified as Pacific wren) and of course one of my favorites anytime of year… The black-capped chickadee.
So this year on New Years Day I slipped past my Anna’s hummingbirds and took a look out at my suet feeder. There was a beautiful Northern flicker chowing down. I thought, what a perfect pick for my YearBird. I love to hear their calls and listen to them drumming on something loud to announce for a mate. And their distinctive flight pattern, four wing beats and a glide, four wing beats and a glide, is always fun to see. And that flash of white rump when they fly away. Cool!
Several decades ago we had two separate species of flickers. Red-shafted flickers here in the west and yellow-shafted flickers in the east. The red-shafted flickers actually have orange-red underwings and under tail feathers. They have a brown crown, and grey face, and the males have a red mustache. The yellow-shafted flickers have bright yellow underwing and under tail feathers, a grey crown and brown face and throat. The males have a black mustache.
We had two separate species that is until many years ago when the two began to link up on the great western plains, and one thing lead to another. Whether from the influence of the free love 1960’s, or too much Barry White music, perhaps negligent parenting, or that Tinder App, they started to interbreed. So the powers that be lumped both species into the classification Northern Flicker. These days we still pretty much only see the red-shafted birds in my neck of the woods but it’s not uncommon to see some subtle variations on the traditional markings.
Then last Sunday morning I was watching my suet feeder and there was one of my YearBirds bouncing around under the feeder. I managed to grab my Nikon super-zoom camera and capture a couple of images through my back window before the bird flew away. Once I got the images on my computer screen I was amazed to see his beautiful bright yellow under tail feathers. Yep, I’d had a visit from a fairly rare yellow-shafted flicker. Interestingly enough, this guy had a mustache that was a red and black combo.
What a delightful moment with my YearBird. So what is your YearBird? Haven’t picked one yet? No problem, go look outside and pick one now.
Thanks for following along, Kat