The White Rump

A male gilded flicker perches on an ocotillo in June 2019, showing off hsi white rump and red mustache and a hint of the yellow beneath his wings, taken on the Latigo Trail in the Pima Dynamite area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I frequently see both gilded flickers and Gila woodpeckers flying through the desert, the easiest way I distinguish the two woodpeckers in flight is to look for where the white is, flickers with their white rumps and Gilas with their white wing patches. With a closer look you can see not only his glorious red mustache but also a hint of the yellow ‘gilding’ under his wings that gives these birds their names. This lovely fellow perching on an ocotillo was feeding one of his hungry and noisy youngsters beside the Latigo Trail in the Pima Dynamite area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve. I hung back as they moved up the trail ahead of me as I didn’t want the young one to miss a meal.

Close

A male gilded flicker perches on a saguaro skeleton early on a winter's morning near the Kovach Family Nature Trail in the Lost Dog Wash section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I met this male gilded flicker on a saguaro skeleton early on a winter’s morning on the Kovach Family Nature Trail, within walking distance of what turned out to be our second favorite house. While there is a lot of wildlife on the southern trails I don’t often see them this close, unlike some of the northern trails that are near our favorite house, the house which as of Thursday we now own. We move in a couple of weeks, we’re close to being home. We met the previous owners on Wednesday for a walkthrough of the house, they were lovely and I’m glad we had a chance to meet, they said there are several woodpeckers in the area, can’t wait to be introduced! They are likely either gilded flickers or Gila woodpeckers, I’m hoping for both!

Gilded Thorns

A male gilded flicker perches on an ocotillo along the Hackamore Trail in the Brown's Ranch section of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

When we moved to Arizona the two birds I hoped to see above all others were both woodpeckers, the Gila woodpecker and the gilded flicker. My interest was piqued early on when we were looking at houses online and I noticed what looked like bird holes in a large saguaro in front of one of the houses and a little research revealed the likely culprits. Woodpeckers are one of my favorite birds, a love born in childhood in our wooded Michigan backyard, a love that never ended even when my daily exposure to them did.

I was delighted to arrive here and not only see both woodpeckers but see them frequently, even in our backyard. My first gilded flicker sighting was in our backyard but I met this male on this morning’s hike on the Hackamore Trail, one of the many interconnected trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Although I mostly see the woodpeckers on the saguaros where they live, he was perching on the branch of an ocotillo, a beautiful and distinctive plant covered in sharp thorns.