Doin’ the Wicka Dance

Doin’ the Wicka Dance

I haven’t posted very many photos of Northern Flickers because, mostly, I think they are boring (except when they are being chased). Big, beautiful, but not much going on in their woodpecker brains.

But late last month, my husband called me to the window overlooking our multiple bird feeding stations. Outside were two male flickers dancing around each other, while a female watched from the nearby tree.

Two male flickers sizing each other up on the seed tray.

Look at the bird on the top of the house feeder. If you look closely, you can see a little white on his eye. That’s his nictitating membrane, flashing down to protect his eye. The nictitating membrane showed up in both birds in a lot of the photographs I took (yes, there are many more photos). I would like to know if it was just to protect their eyes, or if it was part of the signaling going on.

Maybe the nictitating membrane was just for protection after all — the lower bird just got a face full of snow.

More to see in this photo — that little feather sticking up on the back of the bird on top of the bird house? We were really lucky he had that, because it let us tell the two birds apart.

They circled each other for ten minutes, keeping to the edges of the tray.

This behavior is called a “wicka dance” for the “wicka wicka wicka” call that flickers make. But honestly, I don’t remember them calling at all as they hopped and sparred.

Just as we were getting bored, the bird-without-the-bent-feather hopped up and flew at the bird-with-the-bent-feather. Notice that the second bird isn’t really alarmed by this — his beak is very carefully tipped down so as not to impale the bird in the air.

Bent-feather did need to display his finery after getting hopped.

More circling and feather displays. Again, this went on for several minutes.

This time, both birds hopped in the air to display.

Bent-feather took refuge on the top of the house feeder. He spent a fair amount of time up there.

Bent-feather spread his tail feathers as much as the other guy, but he was definitely the one retreating when they circled each other.

Literally beak to beak, tail feathers spread.

Mimicking each other’s behavior.

One last chase around the feeder tray. By this time, we had been watching for 10 minutes, but American Bird Conservancy’s Flicker page says that the Wicka Dance can go on for an hour or more.

And then it was over. Both males flew off in one final display of brilliant feathers and we haven’t seen Bent-feather since. Maybe the feather broke off entirely so we just don’t recognize him anymore. But it seems more likely that he’s off to find anther mate in another territory.

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