Bird O'clock

8 Fascinating Facts About the Campo Flicker Bird

The Campo Flicker, or Colaptes campestris as it is scientifically known, is a charismatic bird species that can be found across the Americas. Its striking features, including its distinctive coloration and unique plumage, make it a favorite among bird watchers and nature enthusiasts.

In this article, we will explore the identification, field characteristics, and molts of this fascinating bird species.

Identification

The Campo Flicker can easily be identified in the field due to its prominent features. They have a brownish-grey head with a red stripe on their cheek and a black-banded white patch on their neck.

The underparts of the bird are beige or buff-colored with black spots. The wings are black and white, with a large reddish patch on the lower back.

The tail feathers are black with a white rump patch. Field

Identification

When spotted in the field, the Campo Flicker can give away its presence with its piercing call.

It mainly feeds on the ground, using its beak to dig out insects and larvae from the soil. In flight, the bird’s distinctive coloration makes it easy to spot, with its bright red rump patch visible as it perches on trees or flying low over fields.

Similar Species

While the Campo Flicker has distinct markings, it is occasionally confused with other species. The Gilded Flicker, for instance, is similar in size and shape but has a different coloration.

The Campo Flicker’s black wing feathers are also an excellent fieldmark that distinguish it from the Northern Flicker.

Plumages

The molt of a bird is a natural process of shedding its old feathers and replacing them with new ones. Birds have different plumages at different stages of their life.

The plumage of the Campo Flicker is divided into three distinct stages – the juvenile, adult non-breeding and adult breeding.

Juvenile

The juvenile plumage is rusty-brown in color, with black scalloping on the upper side of the body. The underparts are creamy white with black spots.

The striking red mustache stripe is absent in juveniles.

Adult Non-

Breeding Plumage

The adult non-breeding plumage of the Campo Flicker is similar to the juvenile plumage but less boldly patterned. The spotted underparts are less visible in the non-breeding plumage.

The bird’s head is grayish with the same black-barred white collar.

Adult

Breeding Plumage

During the breeding season, the Campo Flicker’s plumage undergoes a dramatic change. The head turns yellowish-brown with a red mustache stripe on each side.

The black collar on the neck is more prominent, and the underparts are more vividly colored with fewer spots. The red rump patch is more noticeable in breeding adults.

Molts

The Campo Flicker has two molts in a year: the pre-breeding molt and the post-breeding molt. The pre-breeding molt occurs in late winter or early spring.

During this time, new feathers start growing, and old feathers start falling out, preparing the bird for the breeding season. The post-breeding molt happens in late summer or early fall, which serves to replace the old feathers the bird lost during breeding season and grow new ones to prepare for the winter ahead.

In conclusion, the Campo Flicker is a unique and beautiful bird species that can be easily recognized by its striking coloration and red mustache stripe. Understanding the bird’s plumage and molt patterns provides insight into its life cycle, making it a fascinating subject for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

With this knowledge, bird watchers can engage with the species, appreciate its unique features, and learn to spot it in the field with ease.

Systematics History

The Campo Flicker has undergone several systematic changes and classifications throughout the years. However, its position in the Colaptes genus, which includes 11 other flicker species, has remained stable.

Geographic Variation

The Campo Flicker is distributed throughout much of South and Central America and southern North America. It has a broad range, with different populations distinguishable by their physical traits, habitat preferences, and vocalizations.

Subspecies

Currently, there are 10 recognized subspecies of the Campo Flicker, differentiated primarily by their geographic location and morphological traits. These subspecies fall into two groups based on their physical characteristics.

Group 1:

1. Colaptes campestris campestris Found in northwestern Mexico, with paler upperparts and lacking the typical red mustache stripe.

2. Colaptes campestris baffinensis found in southern Mexico and northern Central America, with gray head, a bright red stripe and extensive spotting below.

Group 2:

1. Colaptes campestris malleator Found from southwestern United States to northern Mexico, with a plum tail and large reddish patch on the lower back.

2. Colaptes campestris chihuahuae Found in Mexico, with a unicolored blackish tail underparts heavily streaked with black or buff.

3. Colaptes campestris mexicanoides Found in Pacific coastal Mexico, with a unicolored blackish tail and dark spots on its underparts.

4. Colaptes campestris anthonyi Found in western Mexico, with a unicolored blackish tail and grayish head.

5. Colaptes campestris atriceps Found in Ecuador, with black on the crown and forepart of the face.

6. Colaptes campestris peruvianus Found in Peru and Bolivia, with pale underparts extensively streaked with black.

7. Colaptes campestris campanellus Found in Southern Brazil and Uruguay, with unmarked creamy underparts.

8. Colaptes campestris nattereri Found in Central Brazil, with a black crown and facial mask and unmarked underparts.

Related Species

The Campo Flicker is closely related to other species within the genus Colaptes, including the well-known Northern Flicker and the Gilded Flicker. Genetic studies have supported their close relationship with each other.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Campo Flickers’ range has undergone several historical changes due to various factors such as habitat loss, climate change, and urbanization.

For instance, the habitat loss and fragmentation lead to a significant decline of the subspecies Colaptes campestris campestris in northwestern Mexico.

This sub-species is now considered endangered due to the low population size and habitat loss. Climate change also plays a significant role in the bird’s historical distribution as it impacts habitat suitability.

For example, the range of Colaptes campestris malleator has shifted northward due to warming temperatures in the southwestern United States.

Urbanization is another factor that has disrupted the species’ distribution by altering key feeding and nesting habitats.

In urbanized areas, the species can benefit from the creation of new habitats such as parks and golf courses. However, it can also suffer from the loss of habitat due to the construction of buildings and other human activities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Campo Flicker is a widespread bird species with a diverse and complex population structure. Its subspecies are differentiated by their geographic location, morphology, and vocalizations.

Habitat loss, climate change, and urbanization are some of the factors that have impacted the species’ historical distribution. By understanding these changes and features, bird enthusiasts can better appreciate and conserve this unique and fascinating species.

Habitat

The Campo Flicker occupies a varied range of habitats, from open grasslands, savannas, and scrublands to deserts and agricultural landscape. They are commonly found in areas with scattered trees, which provide suitable perches for hunting insects and nesting sites.

In Mexico, the Campo Flicker is also associated with forests at higher elevations of up to 3000 meters. The availability of food sources and suitable nesting sites is a critical factor in determining the bird’s presence in a particular habitat.

In agricultural areas, Campo Flickers prefer crop fields and grazing land with nearby tree and bush cover. They forage on insects such as ants, beetles, and termites, found in the soil and on vegetation.

The bird is also fond of fruits such as berries and figs.

Movements and Migration

The movements and migration patterns of the Campo Flicker are complex, involving both short and long-distance movements. The bird is mainly a year-round resident of its native range in South and Central America, with only some populations being migratory.

Northern populations, such as those in the United States, undertake seasonal migrations from breeding grounds in the summer to overwintering grounds in Mexico and Central America. Studies indicate that migratory populations of Campo Flickers exhibit individual variability in migration distances and timing.

Some individuals undertake shorter movements, while others migrate long distances. During migration, Campo Flickers tend to be solitary or occur in small groups and are known to rest at stopover sites.

These stopover sites often provide abundant food resources and favorable climatic conditions for the birds to rest and refuel before continuing their journey. For migratory populations, like those in the United States, the timing of their movements vary with age, sex, and reproductive status.

Adult males tend to depart breeding grounds early, while females and juveniles stay behind for longer. This difference in departure dates means that sexes arrive at their wintering grounds at different times.

In contrast, resident Campo Flicker populations do not undergo long-distance movements but instead make smaller scale local movements to exploit food resources or find suitable nesting sites. These movements can be influenced by changes in weather patterns, food availability, and breeding territories.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Campo Flicker is a bird species that occupies a wide range of habitats across Central and South America. Its movements and migration patterns are complex and involve both long and short-distance movements.

Understanding these movements is important in identifying key breeding, stopover, and wintering areas for conservation efforts. The bird largely associates with open land, including grasslands, savannas, scrublands, and agricultural areas, where it can effectively forage for insects and nest.

The conservation of these various habitats is crucial for the preservation of the Campo Flicker and other bird species.

Diet and Foraging

Feeding

The Campo Flicker is a primarily insectivorous bird, specializing in eating ants, beetles, termites, and other insects. It is opportunistic in its feeding behavior, foraging on the ground, and sometimes in trees, taking insects and larvae by probing soft soil.

The bird uses its long, barbed tongue to flick food into the mouth, while the bill is used to dig out prey such as beetle larvae.

Diet

In addition to insects, the Campo Flicker may also eat fruits such as berries and figs. In urban areas, it can be seen foraging on trees and bushes, feeding on fruits, nuts, and seeds.

In agricultural areas, the bird forages on the ground, feeding on crop pests such as grasshoppers and caterpillars.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The food consumed by the Campo Flicker provides the energy required for its efficient metabolism and temperature regulation. The bird has a unique ability to conserve water and regulate its body temperature during periods of high temperature.

In hot environments, the bird uses several behavioral mechanisms along with physical adaptations such as heat loss from its naked parts. This regulation helps the bird remain active and forage even during times when other birds are inactive due to the heat.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Vocalization

The Campo Flicker is a vocal bird, producing various calls and drumming sounds. The calls of the bird are distinctive and can be used to identify it in the field.

It also uses its vocalizations for communication between mates, territorial disputes, and during courtships. The Campo Flicker produces a range of vocalizations, including a sharp, piercing call when alarmed or recognizing danger.

The bird also has a distinctive drumming sound, created by striking the tree with its bill at a rapid rate, similar to the Northern Flicker. This drumming sound is used to communicate with other birds, and it also helps to locate insects within the tree’s bark.

The drumming can be heard from a considerable distance, up to a kilometer away. During courtship, males use vocalizations to attract females.

They produce a rapid, consecutive “kik-kik-kik-kik” call, with the last syllable slower and lower pitched. The female also produces various calls during courtship, including a shorter and sharper version of the male’s “kik-kik-kik” call.

During territorial disputes, both males and females use harsh, loud calls, with the male’s calls often being louder and more aggressive. These calls help to establish their territory and keep other birds out.

In conclusion, the Campo Flicker is a vocal and opportunistic insectivorous bird that can adjust to a variety of environments. Its range, diet, and vocalizations make it a fascinating species to bird enthusiasts.

Understanding the bird’s feeding habits, efficient metabolism, heat regulation, and vocal behavior can help birders and nature lovers to identify, appreciate and conserve this unique bird species.

Behavior

Locomotion

The Campo Flicker is an active bird, with a range of movements that allow it to obtain food, avoid predators, and move to comfortable locations. Its locomotion is characterized by hopping, walking, and flying.

However, it spends most of its time on the ground, where it forages for insects. The bird’s hopping gait is efficient for moving over uneven terrain and finding food.

Self Maintenance

Like most birds, the Campo Flicker takes care of its personal hygiene, grooming its feathers by preening, removing dirt, and keeping its feathers in good condition. This is essential for maintaining insulation and providing an effective physical barrier against external environmental stressors.

Agonistic Behavior

The Campo Flicker is territorial and displays agonistic behaviors such as chasing and vocalizing to protect its territory from intruding birds. The bird also displays several displays during courtship.

During the breeding season, males establish territories and display fluffed out feathers with their tail fanned out to attract females.

Sexual Behavior

During the breeding season, Campo Flickers engage in courtship displays and mating. The male initiates courtship by performing several displays, such as vocalizations and drumming, to attract the female.

If the female is interested, she responds to the male’s display by fluffing her feathers and hopping in front of the male. The male then offers the female food, and if she accepts, the pair mates.

Breeding

The Campo Flicker breeds once each year, with the male and female working together to construct a nest. The nest is typically placed in a tree cavity, with both males and females working together to hollow out and line the cavity with twigs, grass, and feathers.

Egg-laying takes place from April to July, with clutch size varying in different parts of its range, ranging from two to eight eggs. Eggs are typically white and measure 33 x 25mm.

Both males and females take turns incubating the eggs, which hatch approximately 12-16 days after being laid. After hatching, the chicks are fed by both parents, relying on the parents for food and warmth.

The young fledge in about 25 to 30 days after hatching and become independent shortly after. Young females typically leave their natal territory and establish their own territories, while males may stay on their natal territory for a few years.

Demography and Populations

The Campo Flicker has a relatively stable population across its range, with some localized declines resulting from habitat loss and degradation. However, the species is not currently considered threatened or endangered.

Population monitoring studies have shown that the Campo Flicker has a relatively low nesting success, with only around 50 percent of nesting attempts successful. Factors such as predation, weather, and availability of suitable nesting sites can negatively impact nesting success.

In conclusion, the Campo Flicker is an active bird with a range of behaviors, including territorial displays, courtship, and breeding. Nesting occurs once per year, followed by parental care from both the male and female.

Although there are localized declines in some populations, the Campo Flicker overall has a relatively stable population across its range. Understanding the bird’s behavior and breeding patterns is critical for its conservation, allowing conservationists to identify and protect critical habitats and address factors affecting nesting success.

The Campo Flicker is a fascinating bird species with unique features, behavior, and habitat requirements. Understanding the bird’s scientific classification, geographic variation, breeding behavior, diet, vocalization, and movement can help bird watchers and nature enthusiasts to identify, appreciate, and conserve this species.

The bird’s population and demographics provide an insight into prevalent conservation concerns, including habitat loss and limited nesting success. By studying the Campo Flicker, we can gain a better appreciation of the complex intra and inter-species relationships, thus fostering the continued conservation of the species and its habitats.

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