Image via WikipediaHi, I'm not a bird watcher, and really don't know about birds. I have about 10 bird houses in my backyard and have had some finch feeders, that's it. My question is about a small bird that has been sleeping in the under side of our front porch awning. This is at least the second winter or maybe the third. He/she sits up in the corner behind the framework of the awning and some wires that lead to a light that spotlights our American flag all night. The bird it is not in the light beam at all. It has no nest, just sits on the aluminum rail or on the electrical cord. It's always alone, no mate.
It flies in about 4:45pm every night and leaves in the morning; you don't see it all day. I've tried to find out what kind of bird it is, but can't find a picture of it on line. Now to describe it…it's a small black, grey and white bird. It has a grey cap on its head. Black eyes and is black around the eyes also. White cheeks. It looks like it has a goatee, under its beak is a black spot. Its chest is grey with speckles of white and black. It tummy is whitish. Its feet are black. His back looks mostly black, but I can't see it that well. Its beak is black, round (not flat) and short with a very tiny hook going downward. Do you know what it is?
Thank you for writing. What your describing sounds like a Northern Flicker which unlike other woodpeckers, spends about 75% of his time foraging on the ground. They are found almost everywhere in North America and year round in mid-Michigan. The eastern and mid-western United States have the Yellow-Shafted Flicker and the west has the Red-Shafted Flicker. The Gilded Flicker of the southwest is very similar to the Red-Shafted Flicker.
Image via Wikipedia
Northern Flickers are medium sized woodpeckers with black-barred brown back, white rump, and black tail. Flickers in mid-Michigan have black polka dots on the belly and a black bib under their long bill. The males also have a black “mustache.” As you observed the birds have a gray crown with a red chevron on the back of the head and have yellow underwings and undertail. Females resemble males but lack moustache stripes.
Flickers nest in man made nest boxes or dead tree cavities in most suburban environments and forest edges. Unlike most other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers are mainly ground feeders, eating ants, termites, caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, other insects, and spiders. In winter, Northern Flickers forage for berries from poison ivy, Virginia creeper, dogwood, and sumac, as well as nuts. They do come to feeders for seeds, nuts and suet. So maybe if you have a suet feeder out it would stick around during the day. Or watch any fruit bearing trees and bushes to catch him eating.
Unfortunately the Flicker populations appear to be declining. Some contributing factors might be due to the loss of nesting sites in dead trees and competition with other cavity nesting birds. Wild Birds Unlimited has flicker houses available for the birds to nest in during breeding season or you can build your own Northern Flicker house from the plans on the Michigan DNRE website: http://ning.it/gPwfHx