Alabama Yellowhammers Feeding in the Back Yard

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Glynn Wilson

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A pair of Alabama yellow hammers, otherwise known as the Northern Flicker [colaptes auratus], visited the back yard to feed on Sunday. I have been trying to get pictures of this pair for years. They finally cooperated today. Maybe they were so hungry they didn’t pay me much mind.

While you can see the yellow tail feather in the shot up in the tree, where you would expect to find a woodpecker, see the shot on the ground below. According to scientists, flickers eat mainly ants and beetles, digging for them with their unusual, slightly curved bill. These seemed to be interested in the nuts all over the ground. There are so many this year the squirrels have not been able to bury them all to store up for the winter.

Out West, these woodpeckers tend to have a few partially hidden red tail feathers, thus the name red-shafted flicker. In the South, they have yellow tail feathers, which you can only see from certain angles, so they are often called yellow-shafted flickers.

These birds have a special place in state lore going all the way back to the Civil War, and it is the state bird of Alabama.

More below…

yellow_hammer121111bb.jpg
Glynn Wilson

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Alabama has been known as the “Yellowhammer State” since the Civil War. The yellowhammer nickname was given to the Confederate soldiers from Alabama when a company of young cavalry soldiers from Huntsville, under the command of Rev. D.C. Kelly, arrived at Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where Gen. Forrest’s troops were stationed. The officers and men of the Huntsville company wore fine, new uniforms, whereas the soldiers who had long been on the battlefields were dressed in faded, worn uniforms.

On the sleeves, collars and coattails of the new calvary troops were bits of brilliant yellow cloth. As the company rode past Company A, Will Arnett cried out in greeting “Yellowhammer, Yellowhammer, flicker, flicker!” The greeting brought a roar of laughter from the men and from that moment the Huntsville soldiers were spoken of as the “yellowhammer company.” The term quickly spread throughout the Confederate Army and all Alabama troops were referred to unofficially as the “Yellowhammers.”

When the Confederate Veterans in Alabama were organized they took pride in being referred to as the “Yellowhammers” and wore a yellowhammer feather in their caps or lapels during reunions. A bill introduced in the 1927 legislature by Representative Thomas E. Martin, Montgomery County, was passed and approved by Governor Bibb Graves on September 6, 1927, making it the state bird.

The tradition extends to the University of Alabama, where the famous Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer cheer has been around for decades. It bas banned in 2003, but students voted overwhelmingly at Homecoming 2005 to bring it back.

The “Rammer Jammer” was an old campus magazine at Alabama, and the yellowhammer is the state bird.

It is sort of appropriate this year, don’t you think?

Hey Auburn!
Hey Auburn!
Hey Auburn!
We just beat the hell out of you!
Rammer Jammer, Yellowhammer, gave ’em hell, Alabama!

© 2011 – 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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