The Northern Flicker Bird: Creator of Homes for Other Animals
The Northern Flicker is a Handsome Bird!
IIf while hiking, you disturb a ground-feeding woodpecker that vanishes in a flurry of auburn wings, you have met a Northern Flicker. Unlike other Woodpeckers, the Flicker primarily feeds on insects , using its powerful beak to stir up spiders, crickets, ants and more. So strong is their attraction to bugs, Flickers have even been observed picking insects out of cow manure flops.
In California, the Flicker is usually found in open woodland areas and mountains. There are two distinct types--the Yellow-shafted and the Red-shafted. Many times I have seen them, scaling up and down pine trees, emitting a lovely call: "Wick-up--Wick--up!" Sensitive and curious, they usually allow me to get close--but not close enough for a good photo. While in the nest, Flicker nestlings make a pleasant yammering vocalization that adds a touch of drama to the woods.
The Flicker is often called a Home-Maker. Using its powerful sharp beak, it carves out holes in all manner and variety of trees. These "homes" also become shelters for other animals--even squirrels--who lack the equipment to make their own excavations. In this way, Flickers are seen as essential to the balance of nature in the wildlife community. Flickers do not intend to make homes for other species, but that is the way Nature takes care of other animals without the tools to excavate holes.
Flicker eggs are smooth and white. Their nestlings are ready to fly after 27 days on the average. Off, they go, to build homes for themselves and other creatures who take-over after they vacate. There are over 100 common names for the Flicker, often referring to the sound it makes. My personal favorite is Wick-Up, as that is the way they sound to me.
The female Flicker lacks the dynamic red "mustache" that males have, but she is equally lovely in her spotted coat. Found throughout North American in a variety of habitats, this is a special bird to watch and enjoy.