Posted by: atowhee | March 6, 2022


Here’s what “birds of the World” online has to say about the two duelling male flickers I got to watch this past week:
“Both sexes defend nest trees and mates aggressively. Agonistic behavior is highly ritualized in flicker “dance”. Typically, two birds of same sex pair off in mock “fencing duels,” using their bills as “foils,” while a member of the opposite sex looks on. This dance is prevalent during early phases of the breeding cycle (territory establishment, pair formation, and nest-site selection), but is also seen infrequently and at lower intensities at other times. Displays that comprise the dance are clearly agonistic and function in territorial defense, but territorial establishment and pair formation are so integrated in flickers that these displays may also play a role in pair formation; this remains poorly understood.

“Typically, 2 birds of the same sex face one another on a branch with their bills held at a slightly upward angle (about 30° from horizontal). Each bird quickly swings its head back and forth and bobs it up and down, such that the bill appears to trace a circular or Figure-8 pattern in the air The swinging and bobbing give the appearance of a mechanically animated toy, and are usually accompanied by in-rhythm Wicka calls from both dancers… Intensity of the dances varies greatly….” (bold face is my addition, above)


  1. Excellent photo captures and commentary!

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