Flying flicker arrives for winter

A red-shafted flicker in a Gardnerville apple tree.

A red-shafted flicker in a Gardnerville apple tree.


Though the Carson Valley’s recent wintry weather postponed the annual Eagles and Agriculture event, it hasn’t paused the local bird activity in the least.

In the last week alone, my sons spotted a bald eagle along Highway 395, a delightful variety of songbirds continue to visit our backyard, and I’ve had the good fortune to encounter a number of hawks and owls during afternoon and early evening neighborhood strolls.

Last Saturday, I came across this beautiful feather in the middle of the sidewalk; its orange-hued shaft posed a striking contrast to the feather’s charming speckled pattern.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has a neat tool called “The Feather Atlas” (, which allows users to search through an existing database to help with feather identification. Alternately, descriptive information about a particular feather can be entered in order to try to determine which bird it belongs to.

Based upon what I saw on the website, the feather I found came from a red-shafted Northern Flicker, a species of woodpecker common in our area. On the surface, Northern Flickers are grayish brown with a black crescent shape across the breast and spotted and striped patterns on their feathers. They feed primarily on ants and other insects in spring and summer, and on berries, acorns, and seeds in the fall and winter months. As I write this, what appears to be a mating pair of flickers are foraging on the ground outside my window and sharing a fallen apple leftover from the autumn harvest.

Flickers are frequent visitors in our backyard; I usually start noticing them in early fall. My family jokingly calls them “stucco peckers,” because we sometimes hear their bills drumming against the side of the house. I always thought they were trying to create a nest but have since learned that the noisemaking could also be a flicker’s attempt to attract a mate or claim its territory.

The close-up view of this unique feather felt like a special surprise and was a good reminder that beauty can often be found beyond that which we can immediately see.

• Elks’ Dine and Dash Friday

The Tahoe/Douglas Elks host the first of two February “Dash and Dine Date Night for Two” events on Friday night. Friday’s fish fry menu features fish, shrimp, fries or onion rings, and coleslaw.

Each takeout meal provides two servings for a requested donation of $25 and is prepared by Elks members. Reservations for tomorrow night’s meal must be made by 4:30 p.m. today.

To place an order, call the Lodge at 775-265-5483 and leave a message with your name, phone number, how many dinners-for-two you’d like, preference for fries or onion rings, and the time between 5-7 p.m. you plan to pick up the dinner.

The Tahoe-Douglas Elks Lodge is located at 1227 Kimmerling Road in the Gardnerville Ranchos. Proceeds from this and other local Elks’ events support organizations and causes for veterans, seniors, and youth in our community.

Amy Roby can be reached at


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