Northern Flicker

(Colaptes auratus)



Northern Flickers:

You know spring is on its way when the loud joyful call of the Northern flicker. The "Wicker, wicker, wicker, wicker", echoes through the woodlands. I like to call it a war cry, as it isn't your typical joyful bird song.

Males are also known for drumming in long continuous rolls made by rapid blows with his bill.

Male Flickers will often return to their favorite drumming spot where most likely it is the loudest and noisiest spot.

The woodpeckers are found throughout most of the United States and Canada.


Northern Flickers

Northern Flicker Description:

Larger than a robin, it measures 12 to 14 inches. Its wingspan can reach 18 to 21 inches.

The flickers feet are short with two toes in front and two toes behind.

The bill is slightly arched that is strong and nearly as long as the head. It has a cylindrical worm-like tongue, with a hard sharp tip that can be extended far beyond the end of the bill to spear an insect in a hole.

The body of the tongue is covered with sticky saliva to capture ants and other small insects.

It is one of the only brownish woodpeckers and as it flies it can be recognized by a large white patch on its behind and the yellow under-surface of wings and tail.

It has a black crescent on its breast and a patch of red at the back of the head, nape of neck.

Red Shafted flicker

(Red Shafted, pictured.)

The male has a black streak along each side of the throat, while the female lacks the black streaks on the throat and the black crescent on the breast is smaller.

Females are duller in color than the males. The black crescent across the upper breast has many round black spots on the sides, lower chest and belly.

The rest of the chest is a reddish-white color spotted with black.

There is the Yellow-shafted Flicker in the Eastern region and the Red-shafted Flicker in the west.

Were the two meet, there is often interbreeding, sometimes called hybridizing.

The tail feathers are pointed at the tip which allows them to grip onto the
bark of a tree for support, almost like a third leg.

The call is a long series of loud "wik-wik-wik" notes. Also a softer "wik-a-wik-a-wik-a," and a strong single-note "peah."

Northern Flickers will migrate for winter, from their northern territories to the southern 2/3's of the United States.

Habitat and Nesting:

Northern Flickers can be found throughout most wooded regions of North America.

They prefers forest edges and open woodlands approaching savannas.

Flickers excavate nesting cavities in dead or diseased cottonwood, pine or willow trees.

The male does most of the excavation, with some help from the female.

The female will lay 5 to 8 eggs called a clutch .

Both birds share in incubating the eggs for about 11 days, then brood the hatchlings for another four days.

The nestlings remain safely in the nest for 24 to 27 days, where both parents feed the young.

After fledging, the young continue to be fed by both parents and quickly learn how to forage for food on their own.

Flickers mate for life and the young will remain with the parents for up to six weeks learning the tricks of the trade.

(Yellow Shafted Flicker)


Yellow Shafted  Female Flicker

Diet:

Northern Flickers are commonly found on the ground where it will run a few steps and stop, run a few steps and stop, until it finds an anthill.

Ants are their most important source of food and you often see them at sidewalk cracks and driveways where ants are known to nest.

One flicker's stomach was found to contain more than 5000 ants.

It also eats a variety of other insects and wild fruit, especially wild cherries, dogwood, sumac and poison ivy.

If you have Flickers during the winter it is not afraid to visit suet feeders.

If you want to attract a flicker to your backyard keep a fresh birdbath, don't kill your ants in your backyard and lay out apples, peanut butter, or raisins.

Flight:

The flight of a flicker is preformed in a straighter manner, more than that of any other woodpecker, yet still has the familiar undulation.

Their migrations are performed at night, as with most songbirds.

When passing from one tree to another on wing, they also fly in a straight line.

Right before they land, they then suddenly raise themselves a few feet and fasten themselves to the bark of the trunk by their claws and tail.



For More Information Click on Cornell's Lab of Ornithology 'All About birds'.

Return to the top of Northern Flickers

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