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Nearly everyone who answered this quiz recognized that this was a flicker. Depending on how long you've been birding, you may remember when there were three species of flickers in the ABA area, or when there was only one. Now the AOU and ABA recognize two species: Gilded Flicker and Northern Flicker.
The Northern Flicker is a variable species with several subspecies that fall into two well-defined subspecies groups, Red-shafted Flicker and Yellow-shafted Flicker. These two subspecies groups interbreed widely in the Great Plains; and their offspring, as well as their offspring's offspring, are exceedingly variable.
Even with a cursory view of this bird, we can tell that it isn't right for the Yellow-shafted group of Northern Flickers. Male Yellow-shafted Flickers have a black malar, while females have a uniform brown face. But, the underside of this bird's tail is also not red, as we would expect with the Red-shafted group of Northern Flickers.
This may have us thinking about Gilded Flicker, of which males have a red malar and yellowish underwing and tail base. Looking more closely at the red malar, however, we see that it is shorter than we would expect on Gilded Flicker. Furthermore, the spots on the flanks are very round, not oval or bar shaped as on Gilded Flicker. Looking closely at the crown, we see that gray coloring creeps up onto at least the sides of the crown behind the eye. On Gilded Flicker the crown and nape are uniformly brown, and the underside of the tail is more orange than yellow in color.
This leaves us with an intergrade Red-shafted x Yellow-shafted Flicker (intergrades occur between subspecies, hybrids between species), or more simply a Northern Flicker. Intergrades are quite variable and some may approach Gilded Flicker in appearance. Most intergrades show at least some of the features on this bird-intermediate shaft and tail color, intermediate crown and nape pattern, intermediate or "wrong" face pattern.
This Northern Flicker was photographed by the author at Leoti, Kansas in late December 2004.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the November Bird Photo Quiz—Northern Flicker:
Please note that, unfortunately, many answers were disqualified because of words like hybrid, Red-shafted, and Yellow-shafted. As stated in the quiz rules, answers must consist simply of the Common or English name exactly as it appears in the ABA Checklist.
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Chris Wood.