by Jake Bramante

Northern Flicker (intergrade) – Photo Credit: Jake Bramante

While on a bird walk in Yosemite National Park with a naturalist with the Yosemite Conservancy, someone saw a bird and said something along the lines of, “Oh that’s just a raven” or something to that affect. The naturalist cleverly noted that in his bird books, he’s never seen any species named “Justa”. Sure, he can find an American Robin, but there are no Justa Robins.

As I was looking at my feeder, I found myself looking at Justa Flicker. I put my binoculars on this common visitor to my feeder and noticed that this particular male Northern Flicker not only had the red whiskers, but also a stripe of red across the nape; the sure sign of an intergrade! (An intergrade is a cross between the red-shafted and yellow-shafted species of Northern Flickers.)

Of course, I would argue first that the Northern Flicker is a rather handsome bird, albeit a funny cocktail of fashion sense mixing stripes with polka dots. Spending some time looking at them is a worthwhile endeavor from the flashy colors, incredible long tongue, and charismatic antics. That being said, I was reminded that taking a second look was worth it to find something special. I wouldn’t be the first birder to find a unique sparrow amongst House Sparrows or a rare gull amongst Ring-billed Gulls.

So whether you have a flock of House Sparrows, Northern Flickers, or gulls, take an extra look. There are no “Justa” birds. You might even end up with an even more exceptional one.