In the corporate world, businesses create logos to help consumers identify their products. If I mention Coca-Cola, I’ll bet your mind immediately envisions that company’s logo. Try visualizing the logos when I mention McDonald’s, Amazon, Google, or Starbucks. Pretty easy, right?
Now try visualizing a bird with a black bib and a distinctive red mustache flaring across the male bird’s cheek like Nike’s famous swoosh logo? If you’re a bird enthusiast here in the Sonoran Desert, you’ll immediately know it’s a Gilded Flicker – one of the most distinctive birds in our desert environment. If Gilded Flickers were a corporate franchise, their bib and red mustache would be their logo.
Gilded Flickers make their homes in the desert’s magnificent Saguaro cacti. Saguaros are like condominiums for many birds of the Sonoran Desert with Gilded Flickers being one of the most prolific condo builders. They peck away at the Saguaro’s outer skin to punch through into the interior where they make their nests. Once they’ve raised their young and abandoned their nests, other birds will quickly move in to the pre-built nesting vacancies.
While Gilded Flickers are not an endangered species, their habitat faces many challenges – most notably human development – a common threat to the survival of many desert creatures. Climate change also contributes to the habitat’s erosion. This past summer’s lack of rain and high temperatures were the harshest in recorded history here in the greater Phoenix area. These factors likely killed or damaged many Saguaro condominiums. Unfortunately, such disruptions seem likely to continue.
A Few Fun Flicker Facts;
- What do Gilded Flickers and Anteaters have in common? A very long tongue that each species uses to dig ants and other tasty insects out of ant hills and other crevices.
- Backyard birders who enjoy hummingbirds might notice their feeders emptying in record time if their yards include Gilded Flickers. They are big gulpers of the sugary water. Gilded Flickers also prove to be good pollinators just like the tiny hummers.
- How did the Gilded Flicker get its name? Two theories: 1) some say the “flicker” name is similar to the bird’s call (flicka-flicka-flicka), and 2) the “gilded” part refers to the yellowish, gold-colored undersides of their wings when they take flight.
- Gilded Flickers let you know if they’re on your roof, especially if you have metal duct work like chimney covers. They are excellent (if annoying) percussionists when they’re marking their territory or looking for a mate.
- What’s a group of Gilded Flickers called? Answer: a “guttering”, “menorah” or “Peterson”. That last one is derived from Roger Tory Peterson’s name. The flicker held a special place in his life as a naturalist, ornithologist, illustrator and educator.