About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

That’s Not a Mourning Dove!

I’m trying to find out the name of a bird that was eating on the ground like Mourning Dove but looked more speckled and looked like it was wearing a red handkerchief on its head. I can’t find it in any book. Robert~ East Lansing, MI

You need a new book! At our Wild Birds Unlimited stores we recommend the field guide Birds of Michigan by Ted Black.

What your describing sounds like a Northern Flicker which unlike other woodpeckers, spends about 75% of his time foraging on the ground in search of ants. Flickers in mid-Michigan are grayish brown with black polka dots on the belly and black bars on the wings. There is a black bib under their long bill and 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 (or red handkerchief) and have yellow underwings and undertail.

These big woodpeckers eat lots of bugs and are fun to watch. As the season progresses you might observe these birds taking dust baths to remove oil from their feathers or preening with crushed ants. Ants contain formic acid that the flickers can use on their skin and feathers to kill small parasites.

April is a busy time for flickers. They are looking actively for nesting sites. Both the male and female look for dead or dying deciduous trees to excavate a cavity. If you want to provide good habitat for woodpeckers, consider leaving dead tree snags in and around your yard. You can also simulate a dead tree by placing man made nesting boxes that you can purchase at our stores in trees and stuffing it with woodchips for them to excavate.


Joy K. said...

I love our flickers. I could recognize them on sight pretty quickly, but it took a long while to figure out that they were the birds that fly displaying a white "cottontail."

Star400 said...

I had one visit my land today ,at first I thought it was a mourning dove lol,it is very beautiful and fun to watch ! I have about 20+ mourning doves here daily ... But this bird was thinner and had exactly the same markings as the picture above .I am bless.

al fozz said...

Had one out side my bedroom window truely a beautiful bird. Didn't know what it was so I Google Michigan birds and scrolled untill I found the pic that looked like it