Sneaky Starling Foreshadows Flicker Fatality :-(

I was concerned when I observed this sneaky starling 3 days ago.

Starling lands near the Flicker nest
Starling lands near the Flicker nest

See it on the branch, at the bottom of the pic, looking up at the Flicker nest (hole in the tree).

Starling enters the Flicker nest
Starling enters the Flicker nest

That starling is up to no good!  That stinker went all the way inside the nest.

starling leaves without robbing flicker nest
Leaves without taking anything

I was surprised the Flicker parents didn’t notice!  They were back in less than 5 minutes.  They didn’t act like anything was wrong.

Flicker Mom Protects from Crow
Flicker Mom Protects from Crow

The next day I heard a crow squawking across the river.  I haven’t seen the Flickers sitting in the doorway since they were building the nest.  But mom sat there until she didn’t hear the crow anymore.  I see the parents leaving the nest with something white in their beak several times a day.   I assume it’s part of an egg.  They don’t just drop it near their nest.  They carry it at least 50 yards away where I can’t see what they do with it.

Flicker Dad checks the nest
Dad checks the nest

Today I saw both parents head toward the tree at the same time.  That was unusual so I grabbed the camera.  Mom came and landed on the branch while Dad went in.  Then, to my surprise Mom went up to the hole.

Sad day for Flicker parents
Sad day for Flicker parents

But when Dad came out he had sad news 😦   I’m pretty sure that’s a dead chick in his beak.

They lay 5 – 8 eggs.  Maybe the others have hatched and this one didn’t yet so they broke into it?  Or maybe that starling broke the egg?

On a side note, look at the female’s eye.  Her eye is half closed but the direction of they eyelid is what is interesting to me.  Maybe the position protects the eye from flying debris when they peck.  These are the Red-shafted variety of the Northern Flickers.  You can see orange tinges to the flight feathers in the next photo.

Red-shafter Northern Flicker
Red-shafted Northern Flicker

http://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/bird/northern_flicker

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