Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Resident Northern Flickers

This winter I was delighted to have several Northern Flickers take up residence and visit my feeders regularly.


I love woodpeckers. Northern Flickers are particularly interesting because they are a little different from most of the other local woodpeckers.  Usually you would expect to find your basic woodpecker in a tree. Northern Flickers, however, spend a good amount of time on the ground (at least when it's not totally covered in snow!)


Flickers are on the ground so much because they eat mainly ants, beetles, and other insects, digging into the ground with their beaks to find them.  Northern Flickers eat ants possibly more frequently than any other North American bird.


Northern Flickers also look entirely different depending on if you live in the East or the West.  Here on the East coast we have Yellow-shafted Flickers, which have yellow under their tail and wings.  The males have black 'mustaches'. 

female Northern Flicker on left, male on right
The Western Red-shafted Flickers, on the other hand, have red on the underside of their wings, and the males have red 'mustaches' as opposed to black.  In the middle of the country the two forms interbreed, so there is a good amount of variance.

male Northern Flicker woodpecker on birdbath
My Northern Flickers also distinguish themselves from the other local woodpeckers by being the only woodpeckers to drink from my birdbath.  I've read online reports of other types of woodpeckers using birdbaths, but I've never had any others at mine.  The Flickers came almost every day to drink from the heated birdbath that I had right outside my window.  It was, of course, a lot of fun to watch.

Are the two Robins gossiping about the woodpecker at the birdbath?
Also unlike many of the locals, Northern Flickers are strongly migratory, so, even though I am pretty far North, it is likely they might soon be flying further north for the summer to breed.  It would be nice if they stayed in the area for the summer, though! 


Last week I saw a Flicker doing a courtship dance for another.  Even though the watching Flicker seemed disinterested at the time (and kept hopping away from its amorous admirer), I am hoping a mating pair will take up residence and that we'll see some baby Flickers!  If you've never seen a courtship display between two Flickers, watch this YouTube video by Danny Brown.  It's really adorable!  Northern Flickers will vigorously bob their heads around, drawing loops or figure-eights in the air.  Two Flickers of the same gender will often do this towards each other in a 'duel' for the affections of a prospective mate.  I don't know how they determine the winner, but it's quite fun to watch.


I will be a little sad if all of the Northern Flickers leave for the summer, but I did enjoy having them around for the last few months.  If they leave for the summer, I do wonder if they will migrate back to the same place for the next winter.  Does anyone know?  


 I would love to host these beautiful birds again!

21 comments:

  1. They are gorgeous birds and you got some great shots. I hope they stay!

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    1. Thanks! I am pretty far up North, so I'm really hoping they'll decide to stay!

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  2. Great captures! I am sure you enjoyed all the winter activity they brought to your garden. We saw a few flickers in our garden in the spring time last year. They are such colorful birds and I love the yellow on their wings. I don't know if the same birds will return to your garden but I'm sure you will see them again since you provide the right environment for them.

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    1. That is true! We get a good amount of woodpeckers here, probably since there is a wooded area around with some snags and fallen trees. I'm very glad, since woodpeckers are my favorites!

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  3. Indie - Thanks for posting this. It was SO educational. I've never seen flickers so I'm guessing they don't hang out in the South. Loved those black spots on them and the red heart at the back of their head. Enjoyed the video, too!

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    1. I used to see them in North Carolina, but I don't know if they often go as far down south as you, Linda. You probably have much more exotic looking birds down there!

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  4. I love Northern Flickers! Supposedly we're in the year-round range here in Wisconsin, but I only see them in spring through fall and never in the winter. I haven't seen any yet this year, so I look forward to their return. They have a distinctive song/call, don't they? Great captures, Indie!

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    1. We are in the year-round range as well, so I'll have to see if there are any that stick around this summer. They have such a funny, squeaky call. They are definitely very distinctive birds!

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  5. I have never seen this bird. What fun it must be to watch and to photograph them. I think that one bird was just playing hard to catch!

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    1. It was so funny to watch. The disinterested bird kept hopping away, and its admirer kept hopping after it and bobbing its head. I felt rather bad for it!

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  6. They are beautiful and I have never seen such a stunning yellow color in the feathers of our Flickers. Maybe one day they will stop by and visit. Our Flickers hang around all year long, and have a decidedly cinnamon color underneath their wings. With a beautiful golden canary tinge to it.

    PS since I moved to WP the link on your sidebar doesn't seem to update, I've noticed that a lot lately. But if you want the new URL it's www.thelightlaughed.com

    Jen

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    1. It sounds like you have such pretty ones! Thanks for noticing the issue with your blog on my sidebar. All fixed now! I love your new name!

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  7. I have been watching one build a nest for days at the State Park. They are like little machines pecking away. They visit my garden in summer to eat the ants wandering among the pavers. It is nice you had them visit your feeders. I can't remember them ever doing that here in winter, although I think they are here at that time.

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    1. Aw, how awesome that you get to watch them build their nest! Hopefully you'll get to see the babies then after they hatch. They visited my feeders every day after the snow hit - I'm sure it was a lot harder finding food with all those blizzards we had! Now I see them less often, but still occasionally.

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  8. I haven't seen these birds before - they are beautiful. You are so fortunate to have them with you, even though they don't stay nearly long enough. Fab photos as always!

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    1. Thank you! I love watching them, especially when they fly and you can see the yellow under their tail and wings!

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  9. Indie,
    I do not know what birds you present to your blog.
    I like my garden when visiting various birds.
    Now their nests.
    Greetings.
    Lucia

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    1. I garden for wildlife, too, so it's great to see the birds around!

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  10. They are beautiful. And so are your photographs. I do hope you will be able to show us some baby Flickers in the near future.

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    1. I hope so too! I am still seeing them occasionally, so hopefully they're sticking around!

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  11. I love these birds as well but don't see them much especially in winter. I do have many other woodpeckers visit.

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