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!