|Species: Northern Flicker
Flicker is a medium-sized woodpecker native to most of North
America, parts of Central America, Cuba and the Cayman Islands
It is the only woodpecker that commonly feeds on the ground digging
for ants and beetles with their slighlty decurved bill.
The Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus cafer) resides in western
North America and has red under the tail and underwings and red
shafts or rachis on their primaries. They have a beige cap and a
grey face. Males have a red moustache.
Flickers breed in open mixed, deciduous or coniferous forests but
are very cosmopolitan being found in parks and gardens.
General: Northern Flickers are large woodpeckers around 28 to
31 cm long and weigh 110 to 160 grams.
Adults are brown with black bars on the back with slim wings,
rounded heads, slightly decurved bills, and long, flared tails that
taper to a point. A necklace-like black patch occupies the upper
breast, while the lower breast and belly are beige with black spots.
Males can be identified by a black or red malar stripe at the base
of the bill. Female is similar but lacks malar stripe.
The tail is dark on top with a white rump which is conspicuous in
flight even at a distance.
Similar to respective sex adult.
Northern Flickers are not easily confused with other species in the
pacific northwest. The Gilded Flicker is found within a limited
range in desert habitats of southern Arizona and the Red-bellied
Woodpecker is a bird of eastern North America.
There are however two easily distinguished races of Northern
Flickers: the yellow-shafted form of the East and the red-shafted
form of the West. The key difference is the color of the
flight-feather shafts, which are either a lemon yellow or pinkish
red. Hybrids or intergrades look intermediate where ranges overlap
and are commonly seen in the pacific northwest.
Behaviour: Northern Flickers spend a lot of time on the
ground digging for ants and beetles, and are often flushed from the
ground. They often perch upright on the horizontal branches of trees
instead of using their tails as a prop like other woodpeckers.
Their flight is undulating using heavy flaps interspersed with
glides, like most other woodpeckers.
Habitat: Flickers are common and widespread in a variety of
habitat from wooded areas with openings to gardens and parks and
even in mountain forests up to the treeline.
Although similar to other woodpeckers in some behaviours such as
climbing up trunks of trees and hammering on wood, the flickers
preference for ants which it laps up with its tongue, means that it
is generally found on the ground.
The Northern Flicker is also different to most other woodpeckers in
that it is strongly migratory moving south for the winter from the
northern parts of their range. Like other woodpeckers they generally
nest in holes in trees but may nest in holes or burrows vacated by
other birds such as Belted Kingfishers and Band Swallows.
Many people notice flickers in the spring when their loud drumming
on metal objects as a form of communication and territory defense
draws attention. This drumming can carry for distances up to almost
record for Northern Flicker is 8 years and 9 months.
Conservation Status: (Least Concern)
Widespread and common, but some
populations are declining
A resident of Colony Farm, the Northern Flicker occupies the
forested perimeter of the park. Capture rate (2010-2012;
standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) peaks
during the winter months reflecting increased foraging
movement as food sources become more scarce.