Thursday, September 24, 2015

Northern Flicker

Ground-feeding Woodpeckers

Northern Flicker
For the last two weeks we have had flocks of Northern Flickers feeding in our yard.  We have seen as many as 10 or 12 at once feeding on the lawn.  There were probably more in the bushes and trees around the house.  These are migrating woodpeckers which are stopping over to feed and rest.  They are probably from further north, on their way to central and southern United States and Mexico to spend the winter.  

Flickers are ground-feeding birds that are members of the woodpecker family.  They feed on ants and other insects.  They are one of our most colourful woodpeckers.  As you can see below they have a large black cresent on their breast and a red 'V' on the back of their neck.  Their body is beige with black bars or dots and their head is gray.  They show a white rump patch when they fly.  Their wings and tail are yellow underneath.  The tail looks black from the top.  The shafts of the feathers in the wings and tail are yellow.  The legs are gray.

Northern Flicker
The two photos below show a tail feather from both the top and bottom aspects.  The feather is a rich yellow on the underside with a yellow shaft.  The top is black also showing the yellow shaft.  In Western North America the Northern Flicker is 'red-shafted'.  It shows a red shaft to its feathers and red wing linings and undertail.

The flicker shown here has a black malar stripe.  That is the black mark running from the beak down the side of its throat.  This shows that this is a male bird.  The female lacks the malar stripe.

Northern Flicker
The Flicker nests in cavities in trees, utility poles, and in birdhouses.  It lays 3 to 12 white eggs which hatch in 11 to 16 days.  Flickers will come to your bird feeder and eat suet, seeds and nuts.  They are quite vocal, making a 'flicker' sound, a 'kleeer' or sometimes a 'wicka-wicka-wicka'.

Now is the time to get outside and look for this friendly species.

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