Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flat-footed Flicker

Flickers spend more time on the ground than most other woodpeckers, hunting for ants.  You'd think that after millions of years, they would have developed some grace about it, but not so.  Watch this Northern Flicker negotiating a paved road.  I've slowed it down by half.  It moves like a three year-old with his fathers's heavy shoes on, kicking forward with each step, slipping and sliding along.  I can't think of any other ground-living bird that moves like this, yet there is something familiar about it.

What's so familiar? Beak pointing forward and up, tail raised, then lowered upon stopping, a hop with both feet off the ground at once and grasping  forward for purchase.  It's exactly how a woodpecker hitches up a tree, but here it's horizontal.  No wonder it's so ungainly.  He's trying to climb the sidewalk.  But give this bird a chance.  There is still hope.  The Andean Flicker, which spends almost all it's time on the ground, has learned to walk.

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