Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Methinks I Spy a Woodpecker

It ain’t Woody. That’s all I’m sure of.

I’ve seen several of these around the North Creek area. They’re never close enough to get a really good view, but with a little zoom they resolve into something that looks like it might be a woodpecker. Certainly, with a beak that size, it should be.



It’s definitely not a pilated woodpecker. It’s probably not a Northern Flicker. I’d be willing to put cash money on that – at least a whole dollar. The dollar’s sniny, too – it’s the dollar coin I got in New Hampshire. Wow, right?

This might-be woodpecker was hanging about in the trees by our drumlin on a lovely sunny February afternoon. So it seems they winter here.



It’s hard to get a good shot – they’re almost always silhouetted. Like so:



I’ve done the bits with the photo manipulation and have resolved it into some sort of detail. Not enough, I’m sure, but you lot are clever and I don’t think poor resolution will be an impediment to you.



I notice that when it turns its head, its dark chin feathers seem to kind of spread out a bit, rather like a cravat. That’s why I don’t think it’s a Flicker. Flickers have a little dark patch on the chest, not the throat.



Also, it doesn’t seem to be all over in spots and stripes. It even seems to have a hint of iridescent green. I’ll bet it’s magnificent, close to. Alas the barstards never are where I want them. They’re always off in a tall tree, laughing at me.



I swear every bird round here’s against people with cameras and a blog to feed. I recently took a walk around the Seattle Times park, and there was this tree full of noisy, interesting bird song I wanted to run by you, so I tried to record it. I’m not kidding, they cut off the instant I hit the record button. Twice. Fuckers.

Ah, well. I’ll just have to work on my mad sneaking skillz while you tell me what this is.


  1. cope says

    Hmmm, I don’t think you’ve got a woodpecker, their beaks tend to be shorter and stouter. This looks more like a hummingbird to me.

    I had a bit of time to browse an online Washington state bird guide courtesy of the Seattle Audubon Society but my classroom is filling up with eager students and I must attend to their needs. My HTML skills are covered in rust so I will just try to paste the URL below. Good luck.


  2. rq says

    Deffinitely not a woodpecker, although they usually do overwinter. The beak’s too long and narrow. I don’t know how big hummingbirds do get, but the silhouette is definitely it. He’s wielding a needle, not a jackhammer. ;) I’m going to agree with azportsider.

  3. Susan says

    Unless this bird is 6″ long, it is definitely a hummingbird. No woodpecker has a beak like that. It’s a perfect hummingbird silhouette. We have lots of hummingbirds beginning in the spring here in NM, lingering through late fall.

  4. evilDoug says

    Certainly looks like a hummingbird to me. One thing that is typical of hummingbirds and not of most others is the position of the primary wing feathers when the wings are “folded”. For most birds, the primaries will be more or less above the tail, unless they are letting them droop for cooling or drying (e.g. cormorant). HB’s park them more to the side of or below the tail. Note where they are in your pics.
    As others have said, the pointy part is too pointy for a woodpecker.
    Northern flickers are quite large – bigger than robins, and not much smaller than your little coastal crows.

    Occasionally a bird will turn up a very long way from its normal range, which makes identification even harder.

  5. rowanvt says

    I entirely read this post as joking in nature. I’m pretty sure Dana knows what a hummingbird is. :P

  6. Trebuchet says

    I’ll join in, late to the party as usual and agree: It’s a hummingbird. The mechanical engineer in me cringes at the thought of pounding a skinny beak like that against a tree. He’d wind up in the bed next to the Aflac duck with a fractured mandible.

  7. butchpansy says

    Sweet. I wonder what kind of cherry he’s sitting in. I miss the magnificent Ranier in the orchard of a long- ago-moved-from house.

  8. wrpinpnw says

    Azportsider has it. Anna’s hummingbird is the largest (and loudest) in the area, and the only one that overwinters here.

  9. Onamission5 says

    My first thought was a nectar drinker of some sort when I saw that beak. Looked up the Anna’s Hummingbird posited by Azportsider; that sure looks like a match!

    • azportsider says

      Of course she did. Remember: Dana’s a former Arizonan. She’s seen plenty of hummingbirds.