Flicker is his Favourite Woodpecker

DeerPerhaps one of my favourite birds in the woodpecker family is the common or (yellow shafted) flicker.  As the name suggests it is quite common, but nevertheless remains a most beautiful bird. The mix of golden yellow, grey, red, black and brown, make the flicker a true eye-catcher.  When in flight, this bird displays a white rump patch that is very noticeable and easily identifiable because the patch appears to flick on and off.

It, like most woodpeckers, eats insects. But unlike other woodpeckers, the flicker can be found hopping awkwardly around on the ground, seeking out ants and grubs.  These birds will make use of a tree hole that is many years old and has been used countless times as a home by other animals.

A few years ago,  I had the pleasure of watching as a mated pair diligently tended to their young at a nest hole located just outside my window.

I would watch with interest as each parent would disappear, only to return a few minutes later with a new supply of food for their chicks.

Interestingly, located in the same tree was a nest of squirrels. However, neither the squirrels nor the flickers appeared to bother each other, at least as far as we could tell.  The only time that I recall even the most remote bit of tension between the two families was when the litter of very young black squirrels - each no more than six or seven inches long, decided it was time to raise a little hell.

They proceeded to run, chase, spar, squeak and squeal throughout the tree, gleefully terrorizing each other and anything else that they felt was fair game.

As they periodically scurried closer to the flicker nest, ma and pa flicker would both remain fixed at the opening to the aviary, prepared to discourage the excited youngsters from advancing any closer with a good peck or two.

In any event, they sure were fun to watch. Between the silly antics of those young squirrels and the beauty of the two adult flickers, all in one tree no less,  I was awarded an up-close glimpse at nature and its sometimes humorous side.

The flicker call is a loud "wick wick wick wick wick wick" which is often accompanied by a raspy, high pitched sounding "flick-a, flick-a," which is also where it gets its name.  The breeding range of this woodpecker extends from the tree line in Alaska to southern Canada. It resides year round in all the eastern United States, as well as territory as far south as Cuba.


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