Males have a black patch or mustache
starting just below the bill, and moving backward on the neck.
The under part of the wings, and tail are golden, and flash
when they fly overhead with its undulating flight. Just like
most woodpeckers they rise with a couple wing beats then
close their wings and fall. This repeated action causes the
undulating flight we see.
The Red Shafted Flicker looks the same, but salmon red
replaces the under part of the wings and tail. They do not
have the red patch on the nape, and the patch on the neck is
red instead of black. The Yellow-shafted is in the East, and
the Red-shafted is in the West. There are of course overlaps in their
territories where they interbreed.
Like all woodpeckers they have heavy
sharp bills, and thick neck muscles for hammering on trees,
and getting beneath the bark for insects. They also have
sharp curved claws for cling to trees, and the tail feathers
are stiff allowing the tail to serve as a prop.
Flickers or Yellowhammers as they are also
called are the Alabama state bird.
Song and Calls
The song is a loud wick wick wick, ki-ki-ki.
During aggression and courtship a loud flick-a flicka is
heard. Flickers also drum on resonant wood.
Note on some browsers you will not be able to see or use the
drop down sound list. If you can't use it try the sound
Woodpeckers do three types of pecking.
Loud rapid drumming on hollow trees can be to define a
territory, keep track of a mate, or in search of a mate.
Softer pecking is usually searching for food, and they will
chip away at trees. The third kind of pecking is cavity
excavation, and is usually done in soft or partially rotted
Range and Habitat
Flickers cover the U.S. all year, and north into
Canada, and Alaska in summertime. The northern populations
migrate, and can sometimes be seen in flocks.
They like open
forests, groves, orchards, farms, and semi-open
Breeding season can be from March to July
depending on the area.
Breeding is in open areas with scattered trees. For both
courting, and defending their territory males do drumming,
calling, and displays where they spread their wings, and tail,
and swing their head back, and forth. Woodpeckers
are what are called primary cavity nesters. They
excavate the holes many other birds will use. The male
chooses the nest site, and both birds excavate the cavity,
with him doing most of the work. The nest hole will be in a
tree truck, stump, pole, wooden building, and occasionally
even in the ground. They will use nest-boxes. The nest
entrance is around 4 inches, and the cavity is usually 10 to
18 inches deep. Photo by Keith Lee.
There are usually 6 to 8 smooth, glossy white eggs incubated
by both birds. They will only have one clutch, but will
replace it if lost. The eggs will hatch in just less than two
weeks, and both adults will tend the young. The young birds
will climb to the entrance in about 18 days, and may leave the
nest in 25 to 30 days. Although they are primary nesters
they will still sometimes use birdhouses of the right size.
One way to attract woodpeckers is to leave
dead branches or trees on your property. These snags
attract the kind of insects woodpeckers feed on, and they are
also used to excavate nest holes. When the woodpeckers
are through using the cavity other birds may move in.
Food and Feeding
Natural foods are insects such as ants,
beetles and larvae. flickers have the bill for digging these out of
wood. They forage on tree trunks, and limbs as well ash
by hopping around on the ground
looking for insects.
Flickers also eat fruits, seeds and nuts,
which they will store for the winter. They will come to your
yard for suet feeders. They will also come for black oil
sunflower seeds, mealworms, and other foods.
At right is
a suet feeder on a post.
Of course the Flicker may have to share with
other birds that are attracted to suet like...